A fiery exchange broke out in the House of Keys when an MHK challenged Treasury Minister Alfred Cannan over the action he was taking to address imbalances in government pension schemes.
Rob Callister (Onchan) was not happy when Mr Cannan - after confirming that without action, the public sector pension reserve would be depleted by 2022 - said proposals over legacy funding for public sector pensions would be unveiled next year.
Mr Callister argued that, with the public sector liability ’a massive £3.9 billion, less around £82 million in scheme assets’, action needed to be swift.
’Waiting until next year is too long and realistically we need to start making decisions as a matter of urgency as early into 2018 as possible,’ Mr Callister said.
But Mr Cannan hit back: ’I am tempted to ask which planet the member has been living on for the last four-and-a-half or five years because this matter has been addressed time after time, both in the House of Keys and in the chamber upstairs (Tynwald), on a number of occasions.
’A number of us, including myself, are on record as actively recognising the significant liabilities and the potential damage caused by the cash flow implications of the Public Sector Pensions Schemes. We are taking action.’
He pointed out that contributions were being increased and benefits reduced for employees, while proposals for the legacy funding were due in the new year.
’These are very difficult decisions, there are extensive funds involved, we have to get it right and it is important that we come back with accurate, properly costed out, realistic measures.’
Mr Callister, however, refused to back down.
He countered: ’The Treasury Minister was very vocal on this topic over the last five years and it does appear that no action seems to have been taken.
’As I say, the public liability has increased to £3.9 billion, contributions paid in is £19 million, payments made in the last financial year was £80 million, there is a gap of £60 million.’
This led Mr Cannan to complain: ’I do not know how many times I have to repeat myself, this is a very serious matter, we are taking it extremely seriously and we are taking action.
’If he thinks that no action is taken then he ought to really ask the current government employees who are all paying much more now towards their pensions than they were, who are all facing potential question marks about the type of returns that they will see at the end of their careers.’