Parliament is in another frenzy as IPSA, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, has had its 10% pay rise for MPs bitterly rejected by many of the future recipients before they voted to accept it in full.
IPSA says that it isn’t as good an offer as it looks since the golden goodbyes are being scrapped, fiddling expenses will become more difficult and the fantastic pensions are being trimmed a little. Sir Ian, the head of IPSA, says
In making this decision we are very aware of the strongly held views of many members of the public and by some MPs themselves.We have listened to those views.
We have made an important change to the way in which pay will be adjusted annually.
Over the last Parliament, MPs’ pay increased by 2%, compared to 5% in the public sector and 10% in the whole economy. It is right that we make this one-off increase and then formally link MPs’ pay to public sector pay.
Lord Hutton has triggered a furious response from the unions in recommending the end of the final salary* pension schemes enjoyed by public sector workers. (* Also known as unfunded gold-plated pensions)
The pejorative term ‘unfunded’ when applied to public sector pensions suggests that the taxpayer picks up the entire bill, when in fact it just means that the pension contributions are spent by the government as a cheap loan, instead on being invested in a pension fund. Of course, when the employee eventually retires there is no pot of money, so the treasury must spend from government funds.
Teacher pensions were reformed some years ago, and do not need to be radically reworked in the current final salary pension witch-hunt. Teachers contribute 6.1% of salary, with employers putting in a further 14.4%, making a total of 20.5%. For a main scale teacher paying in for 40 years, this could produce a pension pot of £500 000 to £600 000, if it was invested and averaged returns of 3% above inflation, as the FTSE has managed routinely. A half million quid could easily buy an index linked annuity paying half the final salary – without needing a penny of taxpayer money to subsidise.
The problem comes from the higher earners – the senior management and others who get significant promotions near the ends of their careers. Since these people earn much more than their career average, each pound they pay in to a pension scheme pays out more that a pound from a classroom teacher whose salary is stable for the final 25 years of their career.
In the light of this, Lord Hutton’s report, calling for pensions to be based on career average earnings and for the investment risk to be moved from taxpayers to the individuals, seems reasonable. The unions will make a great deal of fuss, but for most teachers, there is nothing to fear from a move away from an ‘unfunded’ or even ‘final salary’ pension model.
OK, so I object to anyone flying our national flag who feels the need for the word England to be printed across the middle. But is there a better reason for banning the flags flown from car doors?
Flags are not very aerodynamic, and cause drag, making the car burn more petrol than normal. One to two percent more than normal, so over the couple of months before and during the World Cup in South Africa, each car with a pair of small flags will use an extra five litres (or a gallon) of petrol.
If a million cars in England (almost typed the UK there — but no-one in Scotland will be flying the Cross of St George!) had two flags each, that amounts to five million litres of petrol spent dragging flags around the country’s roads.
Banning these silly little flags would have the same environmental effect as shutting down a large power station for five days, and save British motorists over five million pounds of expense. It is enough petrol to fill two Olympic sized swimming pools,
So what is holding the government back in these days of austerity?