Parish Councillors to Receive Pension


Members of the island’s Parish Councils and the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation, who have served since January 1, 1986, are to receive retirement benefits, but will be required to pay contributions for service from that date, in order to be eligible for such benefits.
The move will be effected following the passage of a Bill shortly titled, ‘An Act to make provision for the establishment and implementation of retiring allowances for Parish Councillors and for connected matters’, in the House of Representatives yesterday (Jan. 25).
Piloting the legislation, State Minister for Finance and Planning, Fitz Jackson explained that the legislation, while it was new, merely mirrored the scheme that was in place for persons in the legislative service.
“For some time now, dating back to 2001, there have been discussions about making those provisions for Councillors, given the fact that as of January 1986, Councillors began to receive salaries, and as such, the intention is to provide retirement benefits parallel to those obtained by members of this House as elected representatives,” he explained.
Mr. Jackson further said that the matter was just now being brought before the House, because a number of issues had arisen in the germination stage of the Bill, and that after many consultations by the relevant Ministries, the Bill reflected provisions with which all parties were comfortable.
The Bill makes provisions for: refund of contributions to be paid in certain circumstances; councillors to select where applicable, which of the pensionable payments, which may be payable to him/her, under different laws; eligibility periods for pensions; widows pensions, among other matters. As further detailed in the Bill, Councillors will be required to contribute six per cent of their salary as of January 1, 1986 into the Consolidated Fund.
The minimum length of service required for eligibility will be three local government terms or eight cumulative years. Meanwhile, the legislation also specifies that Councillors become qualified for benefits at age 55 and allows a Councillor, who is eligible for normal retiring allowance, to opt for accepting all his/her gratuity up front or accept a pension.
If a Councillor is not eligible for payment of retirement allowances, in the event of not having served the required period, the individual will be able to have the contribution that they would have made in their tenure refunded. Provisions are also contained in the Bill for the award of a Councillor’s allowance, to a legal representative where a Councillor dies and leaves no widow. The same provision applies in the case of a widower.
Supporting the Bill, Member of Parliament for North Central Clarendon, Pearnel Charles stated, “I know that after today, a number of retired Councillors will be delighted to know that the government is responding to a request that has been made for some time now.” He noted that Councillors’ jobs were full time and that the legislation had come at an opportune time, as the spouses of Councillors would also be pleased with the law.
Meanwhile, some members of the Opposition also urged that the plight of some retired Parish Councillors and widows, be taken into consideration, as a number of these individuals would not qualify for the retirement benefits, having exhausted their years of service prior to the specified date of commencement.
Minister of Local Government, Community Development and Sport, Portia Simpson Miller also welcomed the legislation, stating, “the fact that people are living much longer, I think we need to look at retirement planning. All of us as Members of Parliament should not depend solely on what we will get from pension benefits”. Mrs. Simpson Miller noted that this was a recommendation that she would also be making to the Parish Councillors, some of whom she said had already made such an investment through building societies.

JIS Social