SCOTLAND - Scottish fire brigades are facing an £11m shortfall in their pension schemes, union leaders warn.
And they have attacked the Scottish Parliament for not taking action sooner.
The problem is being exacerbated because more than half of the country’s firefighters are set to retire over the next eight years.
The Fire Brigades Union says its initial warnings were ignored by the Scottish Parliament which only now has promised an extra £5m cash. It has also set up a “short-term” working party in a bid to resolve funding problems.
The working party will be made up of representatives of all the fire services schemes and will report back to the Scottish Parliament in the autumn.
One action under consideration includes the closing of a number of Scottish fire brigades.
Fire Brigades Union regional chairman Roddy Robertson said the £5m on offer from the Scottish Parliament was not nearly enough to cover the annual pensions shortfall.
He pointed out that the shortfall could escalate to around £4m in 2004 alone. The problem goes back to 1974 when brigades hired more than 1000 full-time firefighters as their working week was cut from 48 to 42 hours.
He added that the union has repeatedly called for the Scottish Parliament to create a funded scheme for the service’s pensions.
Buck Consultants senior consulting actuary David Kershaw explained: “Here you have a big deficit which has to paid for with current incomes. The fire service can’t raise the money directly. The ratepayers could pay for it, but that won’t go down well. The government could back it, but that is highly unlikely.
“Alternatively you can cut back on services.”
Kershaw said a combination of an unfunded scheme and an unprecedented increase in life expectancy had led to the crisis.
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