Paying price for professional service

REGARDING the letter about diverting funds from our services (Herald, June 1).

Mr Avis in makes a number of points, which are superficially accurate; eg. The average Eastbourne Borough Council wage is £25,000 compared with the average Eastbourne wage of £22,000.

However this ignores the fact EBC workers are far more likely to be professionally trained and qualified than the average, since so many unskilled local authority workers have been privatised and those workers now work for private companies.

This is not a matter of snobbery, simply the fact that gaining a degree requires three or more years of non-earning and now costs upwards of £50,000 (fees and living expenses), which needs to be rewarded if society is to have a flow of qualified personnel.

So given this, the differential is negative, and compensated by a (once) fair pension scheme.

In order to gain a full pension local authority workers need to have worked for 40 years, contributing to the local government pension scheme from their (generally) modest wage packet, the employers’ contribution which Mr Avis points to is a part of the employment contract.

Generally salaried staff in local government will not be paid overtime, whereas most unskilled in the private sector are.

The “gold plated” pension scheme is thus simply part of the wage packet in a delayed form, and if one is childless and single and dies after 39 service all one’s contributions go back into the scheme, unlike savings which can be bequeathed to a relative or a chosen charity etc.

Perhaps there are anomalies and some unfairness in public sector pensions but if we want professional services from local government, we must pay for them and we can’t simply say to the employees after perhaps 40 years of public service, “Sorry mate we’ve changed the deal”.

Clearly there are some top-up deals given to senior staff in local authorities which deserve more scrutiny, but this is a separate issue from the ordinary long-serving public sector worker, who is simply (if long lived enough) reaping the rewards of his or her labours as agreed when they were employed perhaps 40 years ago in 1972.

I do not wish to criticise Mr Avis simply to point out there is more to the issue than the points he raises.

DOROTHY FORSYTH

Meads Road