Council pension schemes facing £5million debt

A DEFICIT of more than £5 million has been recorded as the debt in council pension schemes for Magherafelt and Cookstown districts.

The figures came from the TaxPayers’ Alliance, which revealed that each of the 101 pension schemes in the UK have greater liabilities than they hold in assets, meaning they are in debt and placing a burden on the taxpayers’ pocket.

In Cookstown, there was a recorded deficit of £3.4 million and in Magherafelt in £2.2 million which equates to £93 per head of population in Cookstown and £50 in Magherafelt.

Although still in debt, the councils fared better than most across the UK, with a high asset ratio above the average of 70 per cent, 83 per cent in Cookstown and 88 per cent in Magherafelt.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance claims that a pension fund should ideally have assets that are as close to 100 per cent of their liabilities as possible. The group said: “Local Government Pension Schemes have become unaffordable and as a result unsustainable, and need urgent reform.”

Belfast council had a deficit of £74 million (81 per cent funding) which equates to £274 per head of the population. The council with the highest debt was Birmingham with a deficit of over a billion pounds, which equates to over £1000 per head of the population.

David Murphy, Chief Executive of NILGOSC which controls the pension scheme for local government in Northern Ireland said that the figures were taken from yearly accounting which they do not base their review system on.

“The last review from 2010 showed 82 per cent funding, so the pension scheme would be in deficit,” he said.

“The last ten years were not good for the equity market but this is a long-term scheme and over the next 20 years we plan to be in surplus.”

The next performance review of the pensions scheme will be in 2013.