On September 11th 2001 Jo Moore, Special Adviser to Stephen Byers, the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Region, sent the following email:
"It is now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury. Councillors expenses?"
The bad news, which was press released the next day, was that councillors should be allowed to join their council's pension scheme – and thus have gold plated pensions subsidised by their Council Taxpayers. This came into force in 2003. Research by the Taxpayers Alliance suggests nearly a quarter of councillors signed up.
The arrangement is being scrapped. From April 2014 councillors will not be eligible to join the Local Government Pension Scheme, those councillors who are members will not be able to mae further contributions. This will save £7 million a year. But there is also a wider point. Councillors should put the interests of residents first rather than council staff. If councillors are themselves members of staff this gives the wrong mentaliity. Those having a ride on a gravy train are not going to keen to bring it to a halt.
Brandon Lewis, the Minister for Local Government, said:
“Every bit of the public sector need to do its bit to help pay off the unsustainable deficit left by the Labour Party. Conservatives believe that councillors are civic volunteers undertaking public service; they are not, and should not be, state employees of the council dependent on the municipal payroll.”
Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps said:
“The Labour Party took taxpayers’ for a ride, and eroded confidence in public life and public servants by their culture of spin. Our reforms will strengthen the integrity and independence of councillors, so that these local champions of the people are seen to stand up for the best interests of taxpayers, not the town hall state.”