As firefighters’ pensions are set to be discussed at Parliament on Monday (December 15), Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd explained why he hasn’t signed a petition against the controversial changes.
The Fire Brigades Union has taken action over the last few years, in a row with government over pensions.
The union teamed up with Labour, to fight against the changes, and there will now be a vote and discussion on a motion (EDM 454) to Parliament which opposes the new pensions deal.
Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Lloyd said, “I have been contacted recently by a number of people asking me to sign EDM 454, concerning the pension scheme for firefighters.
“I appreciate the strength of feeling behind calls for me to sign the EDM. However, it would be dishonest on my part to do so and I would like to explain why.
“Firefighters provide the British public with a vitally important service and consistently put themselves in danger in order to protect us.
“I fully recognise that the physical stresses of doing this requires a careful evaluation of what constitutes a fair and reasonable pension age. With people living longer, (bear in mind that with the average life expectancy being around 85-87) that means firefighters retiring at 50 would spend longer in retirement than they did in work.
“This cost is simply unsustainable.”
He added, “Firefighters can work until age 60, provided they are sufficiently fit when recruited, maintain a healthy lifestyle and undertake a similar amount of exercise to that which is recommended to members of the general public.
“I do appreciate this is a contentious issue and frankly all the difficult decisions the Coalition has had to take around public sector pensions and extending retirement ages have been, understandably, unpopular with those affected. I understand but also believe these tough decisions needed to be taken to ensure the UK economy both recovers fully from the dreadful recession and is also put on a long term sustainable footing.
“To conclude; I know a lot of our local firefighters and they’re a really good bunch of people who serve Eastbourne well and with integrity. I respect what they do enormously. I also though genuinely believe the deal on the table, under the circumstances I have written about above, is as fair as can be.”
The Fire Bridge Union will attend Westminister on Monday to lobby MPs to join its cause.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said, “This is a chance to hold the government to account over an unworkable and unsustainable pension scheme that will see 60-year-olds running into burning buildings to rescue people.
“The government have not resolved concerns around firefighter fitness. They expect 60-year-olds to have the same fitness levels as those in their 20s. This will leave firefighters, who have risked their lives in public service, either facing the sack or a severely reduced pension.
“The government’s own evidence, in the Williams review, shows that two thirds (66 per cent) of firefighters aged 55-60 won’t be able to meet the fitness standards required.”
After the debate on Monday, a vote will be called on the floor of the House over these regulations.
The union said parliamentary opposition to the legislation for the pension regulations has been growing, with 270 MPs supporting a ‘prayer’ (EDM 454) against them
Firefighters have so far secured the support of the Labour front bench, as well as at least 19 Liberal Democrats who are now expected to vote against these proposals.
To see Mr Lloyd’s statement in full, visit his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/StephenLloydMP