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Firefighters pensions - Newcastle Liberal Democrats write to Minister

November 7, 2014 12:07 PM
By Cllr Bob Renton

Penny Mordaunt MP,
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State
Department of Communities and Local Government
Eland House
Bressenden Place
LONDON
7th November 2014

Dear Parliamentary Under Secretary of State,

DCLG / FBU dispute

I am writing in my capacity as a Liberal Democrat representative on the Tyne and Wear Fire Authority and on behalf of the Opposition Liberal Democrat group on Newcastle City Council.

Earlier this week, the city council debated a strongly political motion on the firefighters industrial action, tabled by the majority Labour group, which our group felt unable to support.

The Liberal Democrat group tabled an amendment in an attempt to secure cross-party agreement, as follows:

"Newcastle City Council notes:

- The Coalition Government's plans to increase firefighter pension contributions and raise the retirement age of all firefighters to 60
- The recent breakdown in talks between the Government and unions on this issue
- The subsequent national 4 day fire strike that took place between 31st October and 3rd November 2014
- That strike action on this issue has been avoided in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland

Council believes:

- That firefighters across Tyne and Wear do a brave and heroic job putting at risk their own lives to protect our residents
- That firefighters should be rewarded for this service to the public with a fair pension settlement upon retirement

Council therefore resolves to:

- Write to the Fire Minister urging her to enter into urgent negotiations with the FBU in England with a new offer over pension contributions."

Although the amendment was not adopted, I am nevertheless writing to you in order to fulfil this commitment.

It is our view that the breakdown in negotiations is regrettable and that it would be helpful if you could agree to re-enter negotiations, including tabling of a new offer over pensions contributions. We have had regard to recent ministerial correspondence on this issue but believe that the firefighters have legitimate concerns over the proposed retirement and pension arrangements, especially in relation to fitness standards.

We remain of the opinion that the interests of the public would be best served by further negotiations and if achievable, a speedy resolution of this dispute, thus preventing further strike action and the associated risk to the public. My colleagues and I hope that you will take appropriate steps to enable this.

Yours sincerely

Cllr Bob Renton
Liberal Democrat, Newcastle City Council & Tyne & Wear Fire Authority