Former miners in Fife are being “ripped off” by the UK government over their pensions, it has been claimed.
In 1994, as British Coal was privatised, the UK government agreed to be a guarantor for the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme on a 50/50 basis.
While the average coal worker receives around £84 a week or less, figures have revealed the UK government has pocketed around £4.4 billion from the scheme and made £51 million from it in the last year alone.
Proposals being put forward by pension fund trustees will be considered on June 24, but The Courier understands any review on the 50/50 split arrangement has been completely ruled out.
That has sparked anger among local politicians representing thousands of ex-miners across the region, and prompted calls for a formal enquiry.
Dunfermline and West Fife SNP MP Douglas Chapman said many of his constituents are struggling on, or below, the poverty line while the UK Government lines its pockets.
“Across Fife you can see the legacy of mining, in communities like Oakley, Comrie, and Valleyfield, to name but a few,” he said.
“The people who worked in the pits risked their lives every day, worked hard to put food on the table for their families and kept the lights on across the country for decades.
“For these workers to be ripped off by the UK government in retirement is a scandal and there must be a reconsideration for its involvement in the scheme.
“We all know the struggles miners went through in the 70s and 80s through strikes, with some still fighting for justice.
“Ex-miners shouldn’t still have to be fighting the UK government in 2019 and they must be given a better pension package to recognise the contribution they made to the nation and the dangerous work they carried out.”
Lesley Laird, Labour MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, said the “government had had its money’s worth” from thousands of miners, many of whom were dying early as a result of mine working conditions.
“The number of miners claiming from the fund is rapidly dwindling,” she noted.
“Over the past eight years there’s been a drop of 40,000; nearly 23%.
“This pension fund was created for the benefit of miners and their families – not to line the pockets of government.
“The government talks about risks and liabilities yet manoeuvred a deal which guaranteed them 50% rights on all future pension surpluses.
“It’s been nothing but win/win for them since day one.
“What about the poverty risk to miners who draw a pension of just £84 a week? Significantly less for miners’ widows?”
“If there’s to be any justice at all, that 50/50 arrangement must be scrapped now.”
Despite those calls, the UK government is showing no sign of budging on the issue.
Andrew Stephenson, parliamentary under-secretary at the department for business, energy and industrial strategy, said: “In this case, the honest answer is that the current position, whereby the government guarantee arrangements and split the surpluses, is a fair settlement.
“It is reflected in the fact that successive governments of all political persuasions have retained the split currently in place.”