New Year Update from Federation Chief Executive Officer Nigel Dennis
Our campaign for an Normal Retirement Age (NRA) of 60 over the past year was punctuated by periods of frustration. We got off to a good start with a meeting in February with Richard Harrington MP, Minister for Business and Industry with responsibility for the Civil Nuclear Constabulary.
Mr Harrington, as result of our presentation ably supported by DCC Simon Chesterman, then wrote to Elizabeth Truss, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and to Oliver Dowden, Minister for Implementation at the Cabinet Office, setting out in considerable detail the case for retirement at 60 instead of the proposed 67/68 intended for the general public service.
The requirement for the financial approval of two other Government Departments highlighted that this public policy is not only about aligning existing normal pension and state pension ages but includes stout resistance to seeking concessions on behalf of any particular employment group.
Our task over the year has been - and remains - one of persuading three Government Departments to accept that there is little or no prospect of any CNC AFO serving beyond 60. The vast majority of public servants are capable of serving out their careers to 67 or 68. It may be unpalatable to them but there is wide acceptance the costs of public service pensions are draining the nation's purse and longer life and improved long term health of employees underscore the case for later retirement at 67 by 2026 and even 68 by 2037.
Our year has, nonetheless, seen progress.
First, the meeting with Mr Harrington was followed by a positive meeting in July with Treasury and Cabinet Office officials. A further promised meeting was delayed while the Minister studied the findings of an obligatory Impact Equality Report over the summer. The findings covered the likely impact of the pension proposals on our officers by age, sex and race. We are confident that the findings will support our case.
Secondly, we can take comfort from the recent Employment Tribunal and Court of Appeal success of the Fire Brigades Union that their new pensions scheme was unlawful on age discrimination grounds and that younger members had to transfer to a new and worse scheme, causing huge financial losses.
A review commissioned by the Government agreed that in the best case 23 per cent of current firefighters won't be able to maintain the current level of fitness until 60, while in the worst case, 92 per cent will not be able to do so. If members chose to retire early, at the former age of 55, fire-fighters would see their pensions reduced by 21.8 per cent.
The mandatory fitness and financial unfairness comparison with our own situation is obvious. For our AFOs the proposed public sector retirement ages are simply beyond the career reach of about 90 percent of them and early exit will reduce their full pension by some 20 to 30 per cent.
This New Year we will continue as before to engage with MPs across all political parties and, for their part, they continue to lobby by putting down Parliamentary questions and seeking Parliamentary debate challenging Government on its failure to accede to an NRA of 60.
We are grateful for their support and it's significant that so far no one has disagreed with our campaign. We have to accept that Government and Opposition and all parties are, understandably, almost totally focussed on Brexit and will be for the immediate next three months and beyond. But our focus has not shifted and we are looking forward to the next meeting with Departmental officials due within the next few weeks.
But overarching any meetings and Government considerations is the ethical issue that employees, private or public sector, should, in the main, expect to retire on a full pension. And no Government should deny access to an occupational pension based on the realities of that occupation to any particular group of workers, especially one where their employees are expected to put themselves in harm's way to do their duty. Sometimes a Government has to accept that a "one-size fits all" policy is simply inappropriate.
Especially at this time of year I reflect on the sad loss of all our retired colleagues who have passed during 2018, and especially the premature loss of Kevin Clegg in January 2018 missed but never forgotten and the contribution they all provided in their service to the Crown.
As you know our Chief Constable Mr Mike Griffiths will retire at the end of March, to commence a new chapter in his life. I want to take this public opportunity on behalf of the Federation to acknowledge his significant contribution to the Force.
During his six years here he has led the Force into a more challenging and public facing environment supporting the wider police and security services in anti-terrorist operations and assuring the public that they will be protected from threat.
He has also been totally supportive of the Federation and was first to point out to the Government almost three years ago that the new Public Service Pension scheme was likely to would render the CNC "unsustainable".
The Federation has worked closely with Mr Griffiths, Mr Chesterman and Mr Armitt along with the Police Authority in carrying that message to Government. We can all wish him and his family a long and enjoyable retirement.