This month sees an ongoing reduction in our cash reserves (as intended). The markets have been doing what markets do, but the end result is a slight uplift to our investment portfolio from last month.
I am still waiting for the "aye" or "nay" on voluntary redundancy, but in the meantime, a colleague's discussion with the council's senior pension officer has raised an interesting point. He advised her to apply for VR this year rather than wait until next in the hope that by doing so she will beat proposed legislation to cap public sector redundancy payments.
Make no mistake I agree wholeheartedly with the statement that “It’s not right that highly paid public sector workers should receive huge taxpayer-funded payouts when they’re made redundant" (Greg Hands, Chief Secretary to the Treasury). However some interesting effects of this ruling come about because the cap is to be applied to all forms of compensation on redundancy. And yes, this could, in slightly different circumstances, have meant me.
My top line salary is around £33,000 (pro-rata £26,000 as I'm part-time). I have worked in various part-time/full-time roles in local government for a total of 17 yrs 360 days, earning much less than I do now for the bigger portion of that time, before I funded myself through my MSc and got myself promoted.
My colleague (the one who had the conversation with the pensions officer) is the same grade as me but works full-time. She has worked in local government for over 40 years, also in a variety of roles and, until the last 8 years or so, at much lower rates of pay. I wouldn't consider either of us "highly paid" even now, but we do both have long service and are in our late 50's, and that means that we are now eligible to receive our pensions if we are made redundant. This is where we (or people like us) could fall foul of the £95,000 cap.
If I am made redundant the system works like this:
I am entitled to redundancy pay of £24,000.
Because I am now also eligible to claim my pension, the entitlement I have built up until the day I leave becomes payable without actuarial reduction. This is funded mainly from the pension fund coffers, but the actuarial reduction that would have been applied if I hadn't been made redundant has to be "made up" from local government funds (i.e. you and me - the tax payer). A quick calculation of my figures for this component works out somewhere around £18,000 in total. The actuarial reduction reduces for every year closer to scheme retirement you get, so in year 1 - from age 57 to 58 - it is 37% - around £3,300, in year 2 from age 58 to 59 - it is 34% - around £3,060 and so on (My total pension will be circa £9,000 by March 2016). In addition my tax free lump sum would also be granted without the actuarial reduction of around £1,000.
I will therefore be costing the tax payer £43,000 in total to let go. So it's not hard to imagine a situation whereby someone who has been in a middle income technical/professional/managerial role in local government for significantly longer than I have and/or has very long service and consistent full time employment, could fall foul of the cap. Someone of my age with built up pension entitlement of £18,000 a year would be very fast approaching the limit. On the other hand if I'm made redundant, the tax payer doesn't have to find my salary for the next 9 years, so saving themselves £234,000. As a "by-product" we have the degradation in the service I help to provide if I am no longer there, which is difficult to assess, but I would guess that it will eventually be significant. I really can't see how the slack could be taken up by the existing infrastructure as we've got way past that point now. "Value for money" for the tax payer is very difficult to assess depending on what that particular tax payer values. :-)
How I feel about this is mixed. On one hand I totally agree that large costs attached to redundancy for public sector workers should be tackled, especially the situation - which I have seen - whereby someone gets made redundant and is then re-employed, often as a "consultant", a couple of months later (mainly because the work still needs doing and in this way the "paper" costs have been reduced and the boxes ticked, but the person who can do the job most efficiently is re-employed to do it). But on the other hand I object to the "spin" that this change in the rules will only apply to "high earning" public sector workers.
I have no objection to being treated with fairness (even if that is via a degradation of the terms on which I embarked my employment) but I want it to be recognised that this is what is happening. Public sector workers, many of whom have professional qualifications doing jobs that do not have comparable roles in the private sector, have been taking a hammering on salary and status for a considerable time now. Maybe things will go OK if we decide that we've had enough and opt out back into the private sector where at least you're treated with "dog eat dog " respect. Maybe not. I suspect that we will all find out before too much longer. Personally I just hope to be allowed to go without having to see the mess I'll be leaving behind, either with redundancy "benefits" or without.