I have the honour of joining our friend “MTG” in having been banned from commenting on the esteemed Inspector’s blog. Apparently I am a “troll” and a “banker” for my sins. I had to “LOL” when my comments stopped going through.

As longer-term readers of this site will know, I am not exactly “anti police” in my thinking. However I do have a particular gripe with some public sector workers’ attitude to their pension entitlement.

Here are the facts: most public sector pensions are not funded. What that means is that the so-called contributions taken from pay packets do not go into an investment fund with a ring around them with that worker’s name on. The commitment to a particular level of pension income for a public sector worker is disconnected from the amount that worker has contributed towards it. It’s the difference between a defined benefit and a defined contribution system.

In my comments at IG’s I foolishly made the comparison with my own pension arrangements which are as follows: I pay a certain amount – decided by me – out of my pay packet into a personal pension (a SIPP for those who care). Nobody else puts a penny in. The income I can draw from that will depend only on how much I have put in when I hit the relevant age and how well the investment has done over the intervening years. If the investments made by the pension managers are crap, I might get very little. And guess who isn’t going to be topping it up so that I can enjoy retirement at a particular level?

My gripe with the public sector moaners is that they do not appreciate what an incredibly good deal they have. If I was sitting on such a good deal I would be keeping incredibly quiet about it. Instead we are deafened by the sound of complaining about a reform which would see the benefits reduced slightly and the contributions increased a little bit. Actuaries can argue about what contribution would be needed to align the inputs with the outputs, but the simple fact is that if there is a shortfall taxpayers will cover it.

Some argue that pension arrangements should not be changed for people who are already paying in. However no pension changes will affect rights already accrued. It is a simple “human right”, for want of a better term, that blocks of final salary already earned cannot be retrospectively taken away. Changes can only ever affect the rate of future accrual. Remember, the schemes are not compulsory and any public sector worker can opt out and put their cash into their own personal pension scheme of the sort that millions of people in my situation have. If those people think they will get a better final pension by opting out, you can be sure they will do exactly that. How luxurious to have that choice!

Unfortunately this whole argument comes back down to the very simple illusion under which many, many public sector workers work: that there is an unlimited supply of money that can be funnelled towards things which they like.

The issue is not that the coalition is being evil, the issue is that governments of all stripes have pretended over the course of the last thirty, forty, fifty years that these things can avoid serious reform. Tony Blair knew he had to reform the public sector and failed because of a lack of spine and Gordon Brown. Gordon Brown and Ed Balls pretended the country could live without its means year after year after year.

It is not troll-like to point out the fundamental truth. You can wish it wasn’t so as much as you like. You can even tell each other that it isn’t so. But it is. You can’t avoid reality for ever. Unfortunately it took the economic policies of 2001-2008 to concentrate the minds of those in power. And anyone claiming it would have been different if Alistair Darling had been at the helm is deluding themselves.

48 Responses to ““LOL””

  1. 1 Richard Elliot
    3 August, 2011 at 12:59 am

    Lots to agree with in your post BE. I think that final salary pensions needed to be phased out in the public and private sectors. I think there should be a transition period / exemption for those approaching retirement. A 60 year old planning to reture at 65 doesn’t have a lot of time left to make alternate arrangements, but that doesn’t distract from the main points of your post.

    Two points I’d make from my Australia experience:
    1. We have compulsory pension saving over here and I think that is a good model to go down.
    2. I am lucky enough to have employer contributions into my pension. This is made very explicit in my job offer and on my my payslips.. Your salary is X, of this Y will go into your pension and Z will be paid to you in case each month. I think this is important for a couple of reasons. It makes me very aware of how much I’m saving and also how big a percentage my pension contributions make to my overall ‘package’. I was lucky enough to have some employer contributions in the UK as well, but this wasn’t nearly so explicit. If all of the public sector had the real value of their pension made clear to them I don’t think they’d be moaning about being under-paid!

    • 3 August, 2011 at 9:07 am

      Transparency? How very un-British!!

      Richard the 60 year-old with five years to go doesn’t have to suddenly work for twenty more years. That is the “acquired rights” point. That person may need to work for seven years or pay a higher premium for the last five but the government doesn’t (couldn’t) take away the existing entitlement built up over the last thirty-five-ish years.

      • 3 Richard Elliot
        3 August, 2011 at 9:12 am

        I do and don’t agree with you here BE. I think it is perfectly reasonable for a 60yr old to be making retirement plans / projections based on their current scheme. Even if they keep their accrued entitlements moving them from the final salary scheme to a defined contribution one, will throw those plans into disarray. To keep to the same plans they have made could entail saving an impossible amount for the last five years, because they can’t benefit from years of compund interest. I think we could cut these people some slack.

        • 3 August, 2011 at 9:27 am

          Sorry I have explained this badly. Nobody is suggesting taking away things which people have already paid into! Not even me! It’s savings in the future which will be affected only.

          For example: under the current scheme let’s say that each year of contributions buys 1/60 of your final salary on retirement. If you have done 25 years and expect to retire on 50% of final salary in five years time nobody is suggesting that the 25/60 that person has already put in should be reduced. To get the final 5/60 that person might have to work a year or two longer or put in a higher contribution to “buy” those final five blocks of pension right.

          There is no suggestion that public-sector workers already in the system move from a defined benefit scheme even for future accruals, just that future rights are ever-so-slightly more difficult to accrue.

  2. 3 August, 2011 at 7:51 am

    Or, in short, there is no fucking money left.

  3. 9 stressedoutcop
    3 August, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Lol … As much as it pains me you are correct. On the naughty step for you at Gadget’s !!. I did smile at the anti-troll comments. E-Mail Dan to get you back on. I shall start a campaign .. Miss Melvin too.

    • 3 August, 2011 at 4:39 pm

      Result! I was hoping one of my token public sector readers would chip in :-D

      As for emailing Dan The Publisher it hadn’t occurred to me, he has met me in person so he might be able to vouch for me not being a troll. However, nah.

      • 11 stressedoutcop
        3 August, 2011 at 10:20 pm

        Didn’t say I was happy about it mind, costing the Stressed household thousands with a double hit. Can’t help it I loved Maggie and am a big C. I hope I’m not blocked too for agreeing with you and missing Melvin. lol

        • 3 August, 2011 at 10:27 pm

          Crikey, nobody wants to have their lifetime income reduced through no direct fault of their own. However – and I think this is a point that many of the rowdy mob at IG’s have conveniently forgotten – the people upon who their relative financial standing is supposed to be based have seen their incomes slashed by the long-term changes which are running their course. The idea that anyone should receive special treatment is quite offensive.

          And the idea that every police officer puts their life on the line every shift is laughable. A huge number sit on their nicely-fattening arses in offices 9am-5pm Monday to Friday. Should they get the danger money?

          • 13 stressedoutcop
            4 August, 2011 at 12:24 pm

            No and I think 20% cuts are possible without affecting the real front line. That is not the case at the moment and it would be the 9-5 jobs that go. Needs to go back to basics – Uniform shifts and CID with Great Duty Officers in charge. I’m off team now and might be lined up for a non job myself soon … so might be putting myself out of a job lol

  4. 3 August, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    ” I did smile at the anti-troll comments.”

    Well, I see ‘bruce’ was right along chipping in with ‘I just visited his blog: it’s not interesting to me and it gets far fewer comments than this.’

    Quantity now equals quality, folks! Let’s give the next brainless Hollywood blockbuster about drunken frat boyds all the Oscars, and award Jackie Collins every literary prize going!


    Gadget’s truly is a blog let down by its readership…

    • 3 August, 2011 at 10:17 pm

      I liked the comment from “bruce”. My guess is that he is a big fan of the X Factor and will have to ask around for guidance on what Sunday newspaper to buy.

      Anyway, thank you Julia and Patently for coming to my defence! It is a sad day when disagreeing with a mob of policemen gets you banned from the site.

    • 3 August, 2011 at 10:23 pm

      Gadget’s blog is such a pity. Gadget is clearly an intelligent and thoughtful person but he has got drunk on the popularity of the site and now just deliberately appeals to the braying crowd. I bet he doesn’t even believe half of the bombastic and simplistic views he promotes. He has found a formula which is extremely popular with some people in his own industry but becomes less transferable to the outside world. He loses influence with exactly the kind of people who might read the site and take the points he raises into policymaking circles.

      • 18 Hye
        4 August, 2011 at 12:07 am

        Gadget used to make some great posts back when he was writing for the layman, now he seems to be writing more for the police. When the comments got to be just one big echo chamber I just gave up reading the blog. Anyone with any concerns about the way the police do things just got lumped in with MTG and the ‘usual suspects’. Ironic really, when Gadget used to complain so about how the concerns of the lower ranks were just being rubbished and ignored by management.

        • 4 August, 2011 at 8:32 am

          Hello and welcome to the blog!

          You are right, it is one big “circle jerk” as the Yanks might call it. It used to be a great place for people like me who want to see into a different world. Now I am put off looking at it at all because it is so belligerent.

          The funniest thing is that – of course – that MTG and I in particular disagree on almost everything!

  5. 3 August, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    Defined benefit pensions don’t work, people (employers taking contribution holidays, unions wanting early retirement perks) just pillage them.

    Having said that, the pensions/insurance institutions are in drastic need of a clip around the ear too!

    I have a DB pensions (local government) and I wish I cxould opt out and take the employers contribution (which I see as part of my contractual salary) into a SIPP, I’d do it in an instanc.

    • 3 August, 2011 at 10:19 pm

      That’s the rub, isn’t it. The underwriting of public pensions by the taxpayer also encourages “slippage”.

      You can’t take your employer’s contribution and invest it yourself because that would bust the scheme if it is unfunded.

      I agree about the pensions industry too. I don’t by any means put more money into my pot than I am prepared to lose. Mark Wadsworth reckons that the only advantage in a personal pension is the tax relief on the contributions.

  6. 22 Philipa
    3 August, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    It seems to me that simply stating ones opinion, and sticking to it in the face of opposition, is enough on the net, in many places, to be called a troll. Troll is a misused term. It means to ignore the subject and post ad hominem or contoversial comments off topic. I have been called a troll by simply stating a truth, on topic, on a blog. The one complaining was a journo and of course dissent means heresy.

    I think you are correct about public sector pensions. Often they are linked to final salary. But those times are gone I think. They are past?

    • 3 August, 2011 at 11:04 pm

      Hi P.

      You are right, it is far easier to shout “troll!” than to engage and argue around the point. I think some people instinctively know they can’t win through argument.

      On the substantive point, there is a HUGE difference between what would be great and what is even vaguely possible.

      • 24 huhottuandle
        6 August, 2011 at 7:17 pm

        You’ve hit the nail on the head there.

        Most of the officers commenting are not particularly bright and its much easier to shout ‘troll’ than argue.
        I found this when dealing with them face to face. They get frightened very easily and either literally run away or try to arrest you. The last think they will do is argue a point as they don’t know how to.

        Coming to the realisation of what your average bobbie is like is almost like following the yellow brick road to see the wizard and all you find is a ltlle wimpy man behind a curtain who can’t say boo to a goose! Hardly makes you feel protected.

        I think it attracts that type of person into the profession. The uniform makes them feel a bit better about themselves and a bit more powerful.

        • 7 August, 2011 at 12:22 am

          I think that’s a bit unfair. It is a tough job and only some people would want to do it. I have enormous respect for the police because apart from a few bad apples the people who do it do us a great service, within the limits set by the bureaucracy. This thread was never about the police being crap.

  7. 4 August, 2011 at 11:17 am

    “Gadget’s truly is a blog let down by its readership…” – JuliaM.
    So right! They all wanted Gadget to ban me from commenting, but seemed to settle for advising all cops to boycott my blog! (Not Gadget’s advice, I must say.)

    • 4 August, 2011 at 11:56 am

      Dickiebo! How the devil are you?

      I have to reserve particular “praise” for one poster who calls himself Special Dibble. Now, if my understanding is correct a Special is a volunteer cop. He sounds as bitter and twisted as some of the twenty-year old sweats. He has a big fat old martyr complex that boy. One of these days someone should lock him in the broom cupboard and see if the sky falls in without his presence on the street.

  8. 30 Dr Melvin 'Banned from most police blogs' Gray
    4 August, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Gadget’s ban is mercilessly enforced upon folk of integrity and idiots. I could not possibly stoop to ask you the next question.

  9. 4 August, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    Hi Blue Eyes

    The reason we kick over pensions is the rumour that we will be forced out at the age of 55, or after 30 years service before 55. The pension will kick in at 65 years. What will we do in between for money? As in the private sector, there has been a pay freeze, baring that in mind, coppers are being asked to put more money into it-more than any other public service.

    My colleagues I and in Anonshire face a rising level of violence. I myself have been assaulted a number of times and at one point feared for my life. Regulars do this every day and the toll on the mind and body is scary. A decent pension is a sort of ‘thank you’

    • 4 August, 2011 at 8:29 pm

      Yes, but.

      As i have explained the contribution is not directly related to the amount people draw. If i am wrong correct me.

      Rumours of being forcibly retired sounds shit. But how does that differ from every job where people get made redundant all the time? Why should one career be immune to economic change?

      And I 100% agree about making savings on crap, but something like 75% of public money goes on pay and pensions, reducing the amount spent on cars and paper can only make a certain dent.

      Did my difference of opinion warrant the abuse I got? And being banned? You are supposed to be mature adults!

      • 4 August, 2011 at 8:46 pm

        Not my decision! You’re welcome to my blog!

        • 5 August, 2011 at 11:37 am

          Serious questions nicely side-stepped. Ever thought about politics?

          • 5 August, 2011 at 12:35 pm

            Ever thought about politics?

          • 5 August, 2011 at 12:58 pm

            I personally would not ban you. No side stepping here! Say what you want, but I think IG just get sick of the same sterotypes. Its up to him.

            • 39 huhottuandle
              6 August, 2011 at 7:02 pm

              The public’s perception of the police will certainly not be improved by IG’s blog.
              Some of the comments sound like they have come out of the mouths of immature teenagers with major self-esteem issues alongside having other hangups. I find them to be extremely bullying, patronising and demeaning with little if any sense of right or wrong. The government needs to implement some sort of criteria to ensure such childish people do not get accepted into the Force.

              • 6 August, 2011 at 9:00 pm

                Sorry mate, I’ve got a cure for you, avoid IG’s blog? IMHO people don’t like other’s opinions, I’m guilty as we all are. I like IG’s opinions as they match many of my own-I don’t like yours as they don’t match mine. Fact of life which I bet you’re well aware. And, this is the internet, I’m not sure why people are surprised when they see swearwords, insults and the like as its anonymous and easy to do. Yea we get angry, we express it and most people don’t agree with us hence our anger sometimes. Don’t take it so personal, the blog doesn’t represent the police, it represents IG and if he edits comments out, that’s his decision. Its not a reflection of democracy or free speech. He pays for the website, he displays what he wants as do I. Have a nice day.

                • 7 August, 2011 at 12:24 am

                  There is a serious point here though. People who visit Gadget’s blog should remember that anyone and everyone can read it and the comments. It isn’t a closed forum. People are bound to take an impression away having read some of the vitriol on there. Hey, guess what? We all get pissed off about our jobs and careers and money. Some of us have the self-restraint not to bring our professions into disrepute while being pissed off.

    • 42 huhottuandle
      6 August, 2011 at 7:09 pm

      My colleagues I and in Anonshire face a rising level of violence. I myself have been assaulted a number of times and at one point feared for my life. Regulars do this every day and the toll on the mind and body is scary. A decent pension is a sort of ‘thank you’

      Welcome to the world of doctors and nurses, teachers, firefighters and many other professionals who don’t have the back up and powers you have.

      Most other public sector workers are worried about redundancy – forget pensions. You haven’t a clue what other workers are having to deal with at present. There are redundancies in there droves. People are losing their homes and finding it hard to put food on the table. The last thing we want to hear is police moaning about their pensions.

      p.s. please refrain from the rural/anonshire business – it does get rather tiresome.

      • 6 August, 2011 at 10:12 pm

        Hi huhottuandle

        ‘A decent pension is a sort of ‘thank you’’

        I work in the private and public sector. I see the redundancies in both, my job was to be axed but I managed to sweet talk managment. What isn’t reasonable about a fair pension?

        ‘Welcome to the world of doctors and nurses, teachers, firefighters and many other professionals who don’t have the back up and powers you have.’

        If I recall, over 250,000 people marched in London protesting. Sadly I couldn’t join them, we’re all being shafted though when the police complain about it, people turn their anger on us-unfarely I may add. Though when the RMT marched, everyone supported them. It seems a little unfair.

  10. 5 August, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    Bugger! Missed the whole debate.

    i often visit IG, after BE advised it many years ago, but rarely comment there..Its not my field but It is a very, very good blog.
    But BE is right to say on some subjects its very fixed views accept no opposition.
    Pensions is one. Elections is the other.

    Gadget is someone that I’m sure Mrs May’s officials read.

    • 5 August, 2011 at 1:30 pm

      That’s the most depressing thing. He won’t allow discussion when it is in disagreement with his stance, but he allows his commenters to dilute what he’s saying via their uncouth intransigence.

      I’m sure that the Home Sec and her advisers *could* learn a great deal from the Inspector, but it becomes incredibly easy to dismiss him as a nutter because of the way he runs the show.

  11. 47 huhottuandle
    6 August, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    Apparently not only am I a troll but an incompetent barrister and an investigator from the IPCC too!

    Police do not like to be criticised ! They are special and above the rest of humanity you see.

    My lastest comment just giving the web address of patently’s blog is deemed so dangerous it is currently ‘awaiting moderation’ !

    How utterly pathetic is that? It seems the police are beyond accountability.

    Of course the officer’s comments aren’t being moderated as someone’s comment has been posted following mine.

  12. 48 Damo
    7 August, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    ‘that there is an unlimited supply of money that can be funnelled towards things which they like. ‘

    It’s not just the public sector that thinks there is an unlimited supply of money but the general public think that way as well. They don’t realise that the government doesn’t have any money and never actually did.

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