Following on from the recent dismissal from the council’s cabinet of two high profile Councillors, the leader of the council Cllr. Matt Golby yesterday sacked the long standing and respected Conservative Chairman of the Pensions Committee Cllr. Graham Lawman for seemingly not following the leaders advice and agreeing to pay £2m less into the pension scheme this year to help the council balance its books.
The Pensions Committee which administers the fund, not only County Council employees but for dozens of other public sector organisations and private sector companies working in the public sector, have a duty to the fund itself and when the matter came to be decided upon at their recent meeting, not one member of the committee supported the council’s attempt to reduce its obligations, even though they understood fully the council’s overall financial position and the reason it was being suggested.
Cllr Lawman has been the chair of pensions ever since I have been a councillor and is extremely experienced and knowledgeable about a highly technical and difficult subject. He travels to seminars and conferences all over the country and has been heavily involved in pooling the assets of schemes nationally in response to government’s instructions. A process that is still on-going and one where he has earned respect from around the country and from different political partners.
Cllr Bob Scott, the leader of the Labour opposition at the Council and a member of the pensions committee said “The committee is there to serve the interests of the people in the scheme, not the leader of the council. No other Local Government Pension schemes have been asked to consider such a request before. Councillor Golby is acting against the interests of the members of the pension scheme.”
And he’s right, the chair of the pension’s Committee is not a political appointment, it should be given in the best interests of the scheme, and this morning I have received comments from councillors from across the political spectrum who are appalled by this decision, with one saying to me “He [Cllr Golby] has gone too far this time”.
On the face of it this decision seems petty and a knee-jerk response to simply not getting his own way and on top of the recent sackings from the council’s cabinet it seems to suggest the leader is trying to surround himself with yes man and women.
I’m also not entirely sure the Leader of the Council has it in his power to sack the Chairman of a Committee as these posts are appointed by a meeting of the full council, and I understand Cllr. Golby has been asked to reconsider his view. I hope very much that he will do so because I too think ‘he has gone too far’ with this decision.