Mansfield District Council poised to write to Government demanding a fairer pensions deal for former mineworkers
Mansfield mayor Andy Abrahams is set to propose a motion for the district council to write to the Government, urging it to abide by the recommendations of a Parliamentary report on the pensions of former mineworkers and their widows.
The motion, which is set to be heard at the next full council meeting of the authority on Tuesday, June 29, will urge Ministers to follow the recommendations of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee, which investigated the ‘historic injustice’ earlier this year.
The committee report ruled that successive governments had plundered the pension pot for years, leaving many former mineworkers and their widows on the breadline.
When the mining industry was privatised in 1994, the Government forced through a controversial 50/50 split in profits to guarantee the pension fund.
The motion states: “When British Coal was privatised in 1994, an agreement was made between the Government and the Trustees of the Mineworkers Pension Scheme (MPS) on future arrangements for pensions.
“The Government guaranteed that pensioners would always receive the benefits they had earned up to privatisation, and that these benefits would increase in line with inflation.
“However, in return for this guarantee, the Government was also entitled to receive 50 per cent of any surplus in the Scheme’s value at subsequent valuations. The remaining 50 per cent of the surplus was to be distributed to pensioners through improved benefits.
“The BEIS Committee inquired into how the surplus-sharing arrangements were agreed, the Government's role as guarantor of the scheme, and the continued appropriateness of the 50:50 split.
“The Committee’s Report was published in April 2021 and found that the Government’s guarantee has undoubtedly benefited the scheme’s members by providing vital security that the value of pensions will not decrease. However, the price of this guarantee is no longer fair.”
A similar motion is set to be put forward by Newark & Sherwood District Council.
In its report, the committee formally ruled that the Government should review the surplus sharing arrangements in the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme to ensure they are fair and deliver a better outcome for pensioners.
The Government should also relinquish its entitlement to the Investment Reserve, and transfer the £1.2bn fund to miners, to provide an immediate cash uplift to former miners, the report states.
The report found that, given the strong financial performance of the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme, and the ‘vast sums’ which have been paid to the Government, it was ‘unconscionable’ that many of the scheme's beneficiaries are struggling to make ends meet.
In terms of the 50/50 split, It noted that allowing the arrangement to continue would appear antithetical to the Government's stated aim of redressing socio-economic inequality and 'levelling up left-behind communities’.
Commenting on the development, coalfield campaigner Mick Newton said: “We welcome the support of Mansfield District Council and other local authorities around the region.
“If the Government is serious about levelling up in towns like Mansfield, the quickest way to do that would be to raise the pensions of former mineworkers and their widows. That would give a speedy cash injection into the local economy.”