Warning over retiring chiefs.

The Audit Commission has warned that the high number of local authority treasurers taking early retirement sets a poor example to staff at a time when attempts are being made to cut the cost of pensions. The warning comes as the Commission publishes a report revealing that only one in 20 local authority treasurers retires at the normal retirement age and one in seven chief executives. The report also warned that contributions from local authorities to pension funds have increased significantly and in 1998/99 stood at more than #800m. It also concluded that the number of retirements on the grounds of ill health had not ‘reduced significantly’. Early retirement in senior staff is seen as a major problem by the Commission and one which it intends to watch closely. Greg Birdseye, associate director at the Commission, said: ‘They may be seen as an example to the rest of the staff and as setting the tone for the authority as a whole.’ Andrew Foster, controller of the Commission, said: ‘The trend of early retirement amongst chief executives and treasurers must be looked at carefully.’ Foster said some authorities would ‘face a stiff challenge’ if they are to achieve best value under the new regime coming on 1 April.

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