The government has announced plans to end taxpayer-funded pensions for local government councillors in England, saving an estimated £7m a year of public money.
Councillors have been able to join the Local Government Pension Scheme since 2003 - an opportunity 4,548 had taken up by 2011/11, Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis said today in a written ministerial statement.
However, Lewis said the government does not believe state-funded pensions for councillors were justified. 'Councillors are volunteers undertaking public service; they are not and should not be employees of the council dependent on the municipal payroll.
'They are not professional, full-time politicians, nor should they be encouraged to become so'.
Lewis highlighted the efforts needed throughout the public sector to reduce the deficit and the reforms being made to public sector pensions as part of this, and said it was 'only right that councillors do their bit as well'.
'We do not believe that an occupational pension scheme intended for employees, and paid for by taxpayers, is an appropriate vehicle for councillors,' he explained.
Under the plans, which the government will consult on 'in due course' as part of wider reforms to the LGPS, councillors will be prevented from joining the pension scheme from April 2014.
Those who are already in the scheme would have their accrued rights up to this point fully protected, but would not be able to accrue any further benefits after that date.
Lewis added: 'We hope these reforms will further strengthen the integrity and independence of councillors and increase the respect within their communities for the voluntary work they undertake as champions of the people.'