City council's pension scheme faced a '£219million black hole'
PLYMOUTH City Council's pension scheme faced a £219million black hole in the last financial year, according to figures from a pressure group.
That is the difference between the money in the pension fund for the 2010-11 year and what it expects to have to pay out, the Taxpayers' Alliance said.
Nationwide the deficit hit £54billion, for which
council taxpayers are ultimately liable.
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The Alliance has previously said that the equivalent of £1 in every £5 of council tax goes into the Local Government Pension Scheme.
But Cllr Peter Smith, a former Plymouth representative on the Devon Local Government Pension Scheme, said: "It is not a real figure. The deficit all depends on how well the Stock Market is performing.
"It's a snapshot in time and not something the council taxpayer in Plymouth has to worry about.
Plymouth was one of 165 local authorities with deficits of more than £100million.
The city deficit works out at £848 for each head of population, which is dwarfed by Merthyr Tydfil council in Wales, with a deficit of £2,268 per head and Brent Council at £2,267
Local government pensions are more sustainable than other public sector schemes, which are unfunded.
However, the Local Government Pension Scheme is much more generous than most private sector provision, and places a heavy burden on local taxpayers, the Alliance said this week.
"With an ageing population and a crisis in public finances, generous final salary schemes are inflexible and too expensive."
Plymouth, which is part of the Devon local government pension scheme, has a deficit well short of the worst in the country.
Local Authorities across the UK had a combined deficit of £54billion in 2010-11, down from £91billion in 2009-10, which was a particularly bad year.
Birmingham City Council had the biggest deficit at £1.3 billion, or £1,292 per head of the city's population.
Fourteen local authorities had a deficit over £500 million in 2010-11.
A Plymouth City Council spokeswoman said: "This is a national issue and similar problems are being experienced by most councils around the country.
"Plymouth's pension fund is part of the Devon Pension Fund administered by Devon County Council.
"The deficit has been largely a result of the fall in the Stock Market and the introduction of the requirement for the pension scheme to be fully funded.
"Assets in the pension fund are sufficient to meet the current and forecasted pension commitments."