There is simply no arguing with the macro data: a Sunday Times Rich List shows the public sector has no fewer than 23,000 pension pots of a £1million or more. The list includes not just 3,680 exceptional Mandarins but also 2,658 teachers, 400 retired staff from Glasgow City Council – and an amazing 223 from Kent County Council alone.
The Taxpayers’ Alliance calculates that the number of million-pound pension pots is set to double in the next five years. This is because there are now 123,000 civil servants above the age of 50 – as opposed to just 88,000 before Labour came to office in 1997.
In November 2007, Sir Richard Mottram became the country’s wealthiest state pensioner when he retired from the Cabinet Office on a package worth almost £2.7million. This allowed him to take a tax-free lump sum of £335,000 and an annual pension of £110,000.
But Sir Richard has been outstripped since then. Top of the public sector pension league is Bank of England Governor Mervyn King, who by June 2009 had £5.4million in his retirement fund. Chief of the Defence Staff Sir Jock Stirrup had accumulated £2.4million.
Also in the top ten with £2million was Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell, who ironically was a mandarin in the Treasury at the time of Gordon Brown’s disastrous tax raid on private-pension funds in 1997.
Leigh Lewis, whose Department of Work and Pensions presided over Britain’s pension meltdown, has accumulated a pot worth £1,881,000. At the Home Office, Sir David Normington’s fund is close to £2 million.
Sir Ian Blair, who resigned as the Metropolitan Police Commissioner late in 2008, could look forward to a reported £5million pension pot.
In the shires, Peter Gould quit as chief executive of Northamptonshire County Council with a guaranteed annual pension of £97,000 after just seven years of service at the age of 54.
Meanwhile, over at the licence fee-funded BBC, Jenny Abramsky, its veteran director of audio, has retired on £190,000 a year – a near-obscene amount of money for anyone on the public payroll. Beneath her elevated throne, Zarin Patel, the BBC’s finance director, is trying to find a way to bridge a predicted £2billion deficit in the BBC’s pension scheme. Her principal proposal – the one which has taken the BBC to the brink of a strike – is to break the link between actual pay and pensionable pay.
I could carry on giving examples of this kind of self-donated largesse forever and a day. This is not a political issue any more: it is one of apolitical justice. There are two things that make this scandal infinitely worse than banker bonuses and MPs’ expenses:
1. Some bankers are actually incredibly good at what they do – and, on pre-agreed criteria – more than achieved their profit targets. Most of the Whitehall troughers have presided over abject failure.
2. While MPs working an expenses system is infuriating, it is a minute cost to Britain compared to the extra trillion Pounds these civil service peacocks have awarded themselves since 2006.
The initial objective of this campaign remains the same: to establish a simple principle – regardless of past agreements on pension accumulation in the civil service – which dictates NO FUNDING, NO BENEFITS. It is outrageous that these leeches should expect us to pay for their retirement when they quite knowingly gifted huge sums to themselves knowing there were no budgets to pay for them.
But after this, our central question is still, “Who authorised these unfunded awards, and when will the Serious Fraud Office be called in to investigate?”