Cost of pension changes could spark exodus of senior operational leaders, warns Scottish superintendents association

As many as a third of the senior operational leaders in Police Scotland could choose to quit their jobs due to the cost of horrific pension changes, it has been warned today (June 11).

Jun 11, 2024
By Paul Jacques
Rob Hay

Many Scottish police superintendents are already concerned about changes to their pensions that could leave them worse off, but now they may end up being forced to pay thousands of extra pounds to the government in interest.

In a poll, members of Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (ASPS) have voted unanimously to notify a dispute to Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) on Tuesday.

President Rob Hay said: “This is an unprecedented step – but we are clearly speaking as a united voice.

“The service relies on the goodwill of our members and that is clearly being lost. As the vote shows, they are fuming about this. And there is a real risk that a large number of them will vote with their feet.

“Our members who are over 50 years of age and have over 25 years who wish to avoid incurring further interest payments on their pensions can and will retire. The fact that this is almost a third of every superintendent and chief superintendent serving today should be enough to galvanise the service and the government and the police service into action.

“That’s an incredible amount of experience and talent that could just walk out of the door. What a terrible shame to force these proud police officers out of service due to a financial decision and a basic principle of fairness.

“Whoever forms the next Westminster government needs to take this matter extremely seriously.”

In 2015, police officers were transferred to the Career Average Revalued Earning (CARE) pension scheme, and since then have been paying lower contributions than they were under their original pension scheme.

However, following the McCloud/Sargeant judgment in 2018, which found the transitional protections afforded to certain officers to be unlawful due to age discrimination, officers were offered seven years of benefits in their original scheme for the period 2015-2022 – this is the pensions remedy.

But to access the remedy, officers need to pay the extra money in contributions that they would have paid under the old scheme. How much people owe varies, and the Scottish Public Pensions Agency (SPPA) cannot provide exact figures, says the ASPS. Its projections indicate that someone who was a superintendent from 2015-2022 could owe more than £9,000.

Mr Hay added: “In principle, paying the sums owed to then access the relevant pension benefits is fair and still in officers’ financial interest. In practice, I believe most officers will find it challenging to find these sums from their household budgets and/or personal savings.

“However, officers do not need to pay the sums owed all at once, they can elect to pay them back over five years, or defer them entirely until retirement.

“This sounds like an attractive option, especially for those who were at the higher ranks for longer and have incurred a larger debt. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that. Under direction from the Treasury, SPPA will charge interest on the principal sum owed.

“This interest is currently proposed to be at 3.65 per cent if the sum is paid back over five years, or at the NSI ‘daily rate’ if deferred until retirement.

“The SPPA projections suggest, at the current NSI daily rate, if you have ten years’ service left and defer until retirement, the total sum owed will be around 50 per cent greater than it is currently.

“This appears to be nothing more than a cynical attempt to claw back the costs of Remedy. Yet again, it hits those officers with longest left to work hardest, the very same officers who were already found to have been unlawfully discriminated against by government.  ASPS is fundamentally opposed to these interest payments and that is why we have formally notified a dispute to Police Scotland and the SPA, because of the proposed imposition of these unfair interest charges.”

My Hay added that Police Scotland, the SPA, SPPA and Scottish government “all point the finger of blame elsewhere – ultimately at HM Treasury and, by extension, the UK Government” and that it was this lack of ownership of the problem that was preventing a resolution being found.

Mr Hay concluded: “This is all profoundly unfair on our colleagues – and we will continue to battle over this, whoever is in power after July 4.”

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