A third of Essex councillors set to receive a pension

More than a third of councillors on Essex County Council are signed up to its pension scheme – even though the role is not salaried.

The council voted in 2005 to accept government recommendations that the “volunteers” should be allowed to join the local government pension scheme (LGPS).

Instead of a salary, councillors receive an allowance – at a basic level of �11,500 a year. Yet 28 of 75 county councillors are set to receive the pension when they retire.

Campaign group the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) estimates that �1 in every �5 spent in council tax goes towards paying for council pension funds although unions dispute the figure.

Essex has the sixth highest level of employer pension contributions in the country, says the TPA – with a �56.4m pot in the last financial year.

Councillors in Brentwood – where the pension pot was �2.5m in 2010/11 – are unable to sign up for a pension.

TPA director Matthew Sinclair said: “It’s unacceptable that ordinary families and pensioners, who have seen council tax bills almost double in the last decade, have so much of their money spent on council pensions.”

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Acting within rules

But Cllr Rodney Bass, chairman of Essex County Council and the Essex Pension Fund Board, said: “Essex took the decision to allow its councillors to join the LGPS in July 2005. It is up to the individual councillor if they want to join it and they fulfil the criteria.”

The authority plans to freeze its council tax in the new financial year.