Top 300 civil servants have £250m of pensions

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The Independent Online

Britain's top 300 civil servants have combined pensions worth a staggering £250m, according to new research by the Liberal Democrats, with the average senior civil servant retiring at 60 with an annual income of £55,000 for the rest of their life.

David Laws, the Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions spokesman, said the huge disparity between public and private sector pensions had become "absurd".

"The current public sector pensions system is skewed in favour of high-flying civil servants, ministers and MPs at the expense of hard-working lower-paid workers," said Mr Laws.

"Each year, we pay £16bn in taxes to fund public sector pensions, nearly as much as we spend on primary education. These figures startlingly highlight that this money is going to Civil Service fat cats rather than low-paid teachers and nurses. This will be a shock to people working in the private sector who have seen their pensions slashed over recent years because of Gordon Brown's stealth tax rises and the closure of good private sector pension schemes."

Stephen Yeo, a partner at the actuaries Watson Wyatt, said: "While these numbers look enormous to the average taxpayer, they don't give the whole picture. These figures take account of the transfer value of civil servants' pensions, but if a private individual wanted to save and buy a pension of this size, it would cost 30 per cent more." Mr Yeo said the gap between public and private sector pensions is continuing to widen, with many firms shutting their final-salary schemes, and replacing them with less valuable money-purchase plans.

According to Watson Wyatt research, the public sector pension deficit is almost £1 trillion. Government estimates are smaller, but the actuaries believe its method of calculation is flawed.

Mr Laws is calling on the Government to set up an independent commission to review all public sector pension schemes. When the Government last reviewed the Civil Service pension scheme, it came under fire from the opposition for caving in to union pressure to keep the retirement age at 60 for those who were already members of the scheme. New joiners will now not be able to draw their pension until they are 65.