Belfast Telegraph

Pensions delay 'could cost £260m'

Delays to public sector pension reform could cost Northern Ireland taxpayers £260 million, the Finance Minister has warned.

Speaking during question time at the Assembly, Sammy Wilson said huge savings could be made if Stormont linked in with legislation passing through Westminster.

The minister said: "If we fall behind in implementing this as a result of not tagging on to the legislation at Westminster, despite a commitment to do so, then we will have to find, and the Treasury will expect us to make up, the increased liability that there would be for increased pension schemes in Northern Ireland, which is £260 million in the year 2015/16 - a time when there will be greater pressure already on public finance."

The UK Government is hoping to shave billions of pounds off its public pensions bill by 2015.

In Northern Ireland, Mr Wilson said the changes would result in savings of £60 million from civil service pensions and £62 million from teachers' pensions. He claimed the police pension bill would drop by £18 million while Fire and Rescue Service pensions would reduce by £23 million.

According to the minister, the largest savings would be made in the health budget where £100 million could be recouped.

Unions are opposed to the pension reform and claim it means members will have to work longer and pay more for lower pensions.

Mr Wilson said his department was not aware of any legal challenges arising out of the reforms.

He added: "The big challenge for Sinn Fein on this is, are they prepared to face up to the financial challenge if we do not deliver this on time.

"I have got to say, just as we have had the issue of welfare reform and the way in which members on the other side have tried to, despite all the evidence staring them in the face, hold up the welfare reform with all the financial consequences on that, Sinn Fein are doing the exact same on pensions, despite the fact that they have already agreed that we will follow the GB pension arrangements which are going through Westminster at present."

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