Row after Sadiq Khan refuses to allow pension scheme for Assembly Members

London Assembly Labour group leader Len Duvall criticised Sadiq Khan over the pensions issue
London Assembly Labour group leader Len Duvall criticised Sadiq Khan over the pensions issue

Sadiq Khan faced hostile questions from all sides of the chamber today as he stood by his refusal to allow a new pension scheme to be established for Assembly Members.

The Mayor and the 25 Assembly Members look set to lose their existing pension rights under changes that came into effect this year but which were agreed under the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government.

Khan has suggested it would flout Parliament’s will to establish a new pension scheme to provide for Assembly politicians, but government officials have reportedly undermined this argument.

MayorWatch reported that a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government had said there was no legal or statutory ban on Assembly politicians setting up a new scheme.

“I’m sorry that Assembly Members, and of course me as the Mayor too, have been put in this difficult situation by the government,” Khan said at today’s Mayor’s Question Time.

However, he added he could not justify the expenditure on a new pension scheme for Assembly Members “at a time of real budget pressures”

A new pension scheme could cost taxpayers as much as £2.14million over the course of a four-year term, excluding governance and administration costs, he said.

But the accuracy of this figure was queried by Gareth Bacon (Conservative).

He became so frustrated with Khan’s answers to his questions that he at one point exclaimed: “This is a waste of time. Either the Mayor is deliberately misleading the Assembly or doesn’t know what he’s talking about – it’s one or the other.”

Sian Berry (Green party) said Khan was denying Assembly Members access to any kind of workplace pension.

Peter Whittle (UKIP) said the move could discourage people without private wealth from going into politics.

The loudest heckles came from the Mayor’s own Labour colleagues, however.

Jennette Arnold, who represents Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest, loudly told Khan that the decision was not one for government.

“It’s a decision for you to make,” she exclaimed.

Len Duval, the leader of the Labour Group on the London Assembly, also argued that the government had never taken a decision to exclude Assembly Members from having a pension scheme set up for them.

Duval told Khan that he and colleagues on all sides of the chamber “must be the only group of full time workers” who were entitled by law to a pension but where “the only person stopping us having that person is you”.

The change amounted to a “real cut in…terms and conditions”, he added.

He also questioned the Mayor’s £2.1 million claim, saying it was “not the true figure” and asked Khan if he had considered taking a cut on his £143,911 salary.

At one stage Khan quipped: “I understand the concerns expressed and it’s good to see cross-party support on an issue, even if it is pensions for Assembly Members and the Mayor.”

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