Surrey Herald

Council pension deficit stands at £390m

Jan 13 2011 By Vicki Eltis, Surrey Herald

The leader of STAG, Peter Webb

SURREY County Council's pension deficit of £390 million means it is to all intents and purposes insolvent - and will take 20 years to recover, claim an action group.

The Surrey Pension Fund total deficit figure of £750m, of which the council's share is £390m, was revealed to the Informer by the council as Surrey Tax Action Group (STAG) regrouped to tackle what it considers to be 'rapidly growing problems'.

The leader of STAG, Peter Webb, headed the original group in 2003, and says its supporters have become increasingly concerned by SCC's ever-growing number of employees - from 20,000 to 28,000 in three years - coupled with poor spending decisions.

It now wants 'meaningful dialogue' with council members. He said: "We believe SCC is in a state of denial and simply does not understand just how disappointed the electorate is. People are fed-up with a council tax that has soared far above inflation, mismanaged road maintenance contracts and other poor services, coupled with brazen and costly staff appointments at a time when individual council taxpayers are facing massive financial restrictions at home.

"The pension deficit is a national problem that is getting worse. The reality is that the council is technically insolvent, largely because of the fast expanding staff pension fund deficit."

According to The TaxPayers' Alliance, of which STAG is a member, Surrey is among the top 10 counties in the country with the highest pension deficits.

Surrey Pension Fund includes employees of the county council, (excluding teachers and firefighters who have their own scheme) and borough councils.

The council's audit and governance committee met on Tuesday to consider the triennial report of its pension funds.

STAG member and chartered accountant Chris Slyfield, a former county councillor who originally sat on the pension fund advisor group, added: "The council were saying it would take 20 years to pay it back six years ago. I think the liability is so massive, it would scare everyone. It will take a long time to pay this back."

However, David Hodge, the council's deputy leader and cabinet member for performance, said: "We welcome the return of STAG, but are surprised that they do not seem to be aware of the progress we have made.

"For example, we have launched reviews of all our services, identifying savings of nearly £80m. The pension fund deficit is a complex issue and the TaxPayers' Alliance may be using out-of-date information."

STAG has a central group of six people with specialist skills in finance, business and industry, management, corporate communications, logistics, local government and administration.

It has more than 100 registered supporters, but is seeking more. For more information log on to