Cornwall

Government changes are "detrimental" to public sector

A Cornwall Council trading standards officer said taking strike action was "one of the most difficult professional decisions I've had to make".

Sharon Foster, from Camborne, is one of the public sector workers striking over planned changes to pay and pensions.

Ms Foster, who is also a member of the authority's pension fund committee, said "there should be good pensions for all".

Unions claim the changes would mean people working longer, paying more and receiving less when they retire.

The industrial action resulted in the closure, or partial closure, of 177 of the county's 274 schools.

Ms Foster said: "There comes a time when the government needs to listen, and this may be that time.

'Bankers' failings'

"We can't sit back and let them do this to us.

"The government is planning to change our pension scheme which was only reorganised in 2008 and at that time it was thought to be sustainable and and fair and affordable."

Ms Foster said the government wanted them "to pay up to double our current contributions, to work for longer, and to get less money at the end of it".

She added: "You don't tear up good pensions, you make bad pensions better."

"The average occupational pension is actually £9,000 a year, the average public service pension is £7,800 a year, but the average in local government is a lot less that that, it's about £4,000 a year."

Ms Foster said that if the government did not want to "take the money out to give to the bankers to make up for the bankers' failings", the economy could afford to keep this type of pension going.

"There's enough money in the local government pension scheme that if nobody made any contributions for the next 20 years this would still be enough money to pay out," she claimed.

The government said the strikes would "achieve nothing" and has called on the unions to continue negotiations.

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