Thursday, 16 February 2012
What Makes You So Special?
I was reading an article the other day in which an MSP - Graeme Pearson - commented on the Scottish Government's plans for establishing a new single police force - to replace the eight we have at present.
Now Graeme Pearson's criticisms were not what caught my attention - what did was the fact that Graeme was previously a senior police officer - and latterly head of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency.
So clearly Graeme has left the police service and gone on to build a new career as an MSP - in the Scottish Parliament.
Good for him - I admire that in a person.
But then another thought occurred to me - I asked myself why should there be such generous pension arrangements for some public service workers - but not others?
Why should a police officer be allowed to retire early and not a home carer or classroom assistant - for example?
The answer normally put forward on behalf of such groups - is that they do stressful, demanding and physical jobs that they couldn't possibly do - into their 60s.
Now I'm not sure I buy that - I think there are lots of similar jobs out there which are paid a great deal less - but the people doing them still don't have the option of retiring early.
The other point is that while a police officer or a firefighter might not be able to do at 60 what they can do at 20 - physically at least - they don't have to be deployed in such a way that they are running after criminals in the street - or charging into burning buildings.
So the question comes back to - why are some groups allowed to retire early while others have to work on?
To my mind there is no sensible answer to that question - other than to say that years ago the 'rules' of public sector pension schemes were designed in such a way - as to favour some groups of workers over others.
What I would do is to have one set of rules which apply to everbody - so that people can still retire early if they want, but they have to accept a reduction in the pension they receive.
Now that would be fair to everyone all round - from top to bottom in an organsiation - and everybody in between.
So long as annual pensions and lump sums were based on a career average principle - of course - which paid people out on the basis of what they have paid in over the years.
And if someone takes another job after they've retired early - financed through public money - then I would 'abate' or reduce their pension accordingly.
Because why should the public purse pay to retire someone early - only to have them walk back through a revolving door and start working again - at public expense?
Especially when another person could do the job.