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Your report on pensions was unfair to MLAs

I REFER to an article in the Belfast Telegraph (News, December 9), which included figures comparing the estimated final pensions available through the Assembly members' pension scheme with those provided by a public service scheme.

The figures were not a true comparison.

You compared an MLA retiring with 12 years' service with a civil servant on the same salary level retiring after 12 years and indicated that the civil servant would receive £8,600 whereas the MLA would receive £12,900.

The point ignored by your article is the contribution levels payable by the civil servant/MLA to fund these pensions.

The civil servant will have paid 3.5% of their gross salary; the MLA will have paid 11.5% of their gross pay.

In both cases, the employer contribution is virtually the same.

The option for MLAs to pay in at 11.5% has only been available for a short time - the normal rate being 6%.

If an MLA had paid that rate over the same period, the pension figure would be £10,300 - still above the estimate for a comparable civil servant, but then so is the contribution level.

MLAs have limited job-security, having to submit themselves to the will of the electorate every four years.

The option to make bigger contributions is an acknowledgment of this.

The Assembly scheme is also very similar to those which apply in Westminster, Scotland and Wales.

The article also made reference to the investigation being carried out by Pat McCartan and the independent review team which is to report on MLAs' salaries and pensions.

This exercise was put in place by the Assembly Commission, as there was concern that the decisions over these matters were being taken by MLAs themselves.

Whatever decisions are made by the review team, MLAs are committed to accepting them.

I offer these facts in the interests of fairness and balance.

We do not always get a good Press 'up on the hill' and we are well-used to criticism - it goes with the job and, so long as it is informed, we have no objection.

TREVOR LUNN MLA

Chairperson, Assembly pension trustees

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