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Friday 13 April 2012

TPA – Perpetual Public Pension Porkie

It’s not often that Zelo Street honours the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) with a follow-up post on the same day – an update is usually sufficient – but the brass neck displayed by their chief non-job holder Matthew Sinclair on public sector pension costs, to which he has added the customary barrage of pejorative language and even the odd scrap of abuse, requires the e-wrecking ball to be deployed.

And yet more guff from Tufton Street

After the TPA’s “research” was first published, UNISON replied, pointing out the false assumptions in the TPA’s arguments, which, it has to be pointed out, Sinclair and his pals knew about all along. The art of getting the audience to “look over there” while pulling a fast one is part and parcel of the TPA’s modus operandi, as is the customary appeal to the interest of “ordinary hard working taxpayers”.

But UNISON had said something – which by definition means Sinclair does not approve of it – so there had to be a reply. He sets out his stall by calling that response “Misleading”, which is a good definition of 95% of what comes out of the TPA. “They pretend that there is something wrong with us ‘comparing liabilities to assets’” he states. They do not.

What UNISON do is to underscore the false assumption in the TPA analysis, that the public is only “on the hook” if everyone in the public sector pension funds retires on the same day, which is preposterous nonsense. What he also fails to address is my point about the reduction of the accumulated pension debt from £91 billion in 2009-10 to £54 billion in 2010-11. What is the trend?

If that trend is downwards, as the Local Government Association (LGA) asserts, then the TPA is just scaremongering. But Sinclair isn’t through just yet. He cannot bring himself to agree unconditionally that the cost of employers’ contributions to local Government pensions is just 5%, and wants to perpetuate the – yes, misleading – claim that £1 in every £5 of Council Tax goes on those payments.

So here’s the “look over there” moment: “But most people don’t know what their share of their council’s budget is. So Unison’s preferred figure doesn’t help them understand the scale of council pension costs. They do know how much they pay in Council Tax. So that figure is a better way of helping them understand how important these costs are”. Yes, you read that right.

Matthew Sinclair says that keeping taxpayers ignorant of how local Government is funded will help them understand. And then he has the further audacity to call out UNISON for being “aggressively stupid”, which will no doubt go down jolly well on the Second Floor at Tufton Street among that coterie of Clever People Who Talk Loudly In Restaurants.

But as serious research, it’s next to useless. No change there, then.

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