As firefighters’ pensions were set to be discussed at Parliament yesterday (December 15), MP Stephen Lloyd explained why he had chosen not to sign 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.
And it has managed to put forward an Early Day Motion (EDM), which means Parliament will discuss and vote on the motion which opposes the new pensions deal. It was due to be discussed in the Houses of Commons as the Gazette went to press yesterday.
Before the debate, Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Lloyd said, “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. 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 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.”
Despite a lack of support from Mr Lloyd, several other Liberal Democrat MPs have signed the EDM supporting the union.
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.”