Defined Benefit 

Government denied pensions case appeal

Government denied pensions case appeal

The Supreme Court has today (June 27) refused the government’s application to appeal a court case which ruled changes made to judges and firefighters pension schemes were discriminatory.

According to the Fire Brigades Union this was the last legal hurdle in the dispute, leaving the government with no further avenue to exhaust.

Elizabeth Truss, chief secretary to HM Treasury, revealed in January that if the government lost it could cost around £4bn a year if extended to all applicable public service pension schemes.

HM Treasury has been approached for comment.

In March 2015, the defined benefit pension schemes for judges and firefighters were closed, and these people were transferred into a replacement scheme.

Transitional provisions were put in place, which allow older judges and firefighters to remain members of the old schemes, either until retirement or until the end of a period of tapered protection, dependent on their age.

But in a ruling handed out in December, the Court of Appeal said that the government discriminated against the two groups on the grounds of age, race and equal pay in relation to changes to their pension.

The FBU initiated over 6,000 Employment Tribunal claims alleging that the changes amounted to unlawful discrimination.

The union stated that the Supreme Court has refused the government’s application to appeal because it did not raise an arguable point of law. In addition, the government has been ordered to pay the costs of the case, it stated.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “FBU members took action for what they believed to be right, and today, we have been vindicated. We never gave up on our fight for justice, and we are delighted that our perseverance has paid off.

“This ruling proves that the government has discriminated against thousands of younger firefighters. They must now rectify the damage they unnecessarily caused.”

Tom Selby, senior analyst at AJ Bell, said: “Members of public sector schemes look set to receive a huge retirement boost after the Supreme Court refused to hear the Treasury’s appeal in this landmark age discrimination case.

“The transitional arrangements introduced alongside reforms to public sector schemes back in 2015 were designed to appease trade unions. This concession has now come back to bite the Treasury in the backside to the tune of £4bn a year.

“While for those affected this is clearly great news, it could not have come at a worse time for the Government.

“With Brexit leering over Whitehall like a Dementor, sapping the life out of every department approaches, the last thing a new Prime Minister – and most likely a new Chancellor – wants to find is a ready-made black hole in the nation’s finances.

“As is always the case when cash is sucked out of public coffers, options are limited: spend less, borrow more or cross your fingers and hope economic growth bails you out of trouble.”

maria.espadinha@ft.com