SNP and Labour politicians clashed yesterday over the management of a £2.7million public sector pension pot.
The Nationalists claim the North East Scotland Pension Fund (NESPF) – which is administered by the city council – could be used to invest in badly-needed social housing.
Aberdeen Central SNP MSP Kevin Stewart wrote to council leader and pension panel convener Barney Crockett to point out that governors of the Falkirk Pension Fund had agreed a £30million investment to build more homes.
Mr Stewart said that Mr Crockett was “failing” where his counterparts in Falkirk had succeeded, despite the local SNP group suggesting the cash could go towards housing. However, Labour council chief Mr Crockett said the NESPF was not his “personal piggy bank” and trustees of the fund were bound by law to get the best return possible for pensioners.
The NESPF fund receives contributions from 50 members including Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and Moray councils, Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service – and makes investments all over the world. The fund was the subject of a critical report earlier this year by public spending watchdog Audit Scotland, which said it has not been meeting targets for returns on investment.
Mr Stewart said Falkirk had shown what could be achieved with “far-sighted” decisions. He said: “We now see the costs of councillor Crockett’s low ambitions for the city and he is acting as a brake on progress.”
Mr Crockett vehemently denied that he had refused a request to consider investment in housing, however. He said: “He is alleging that I have said we would never do this. I have never said anything remotely like that. Everybody has to realise that the pension panel acts as trustees for pensioners, our only legitimate concern is the return for the pensioners. Nothing would make me happier than being able to build houses, and if there was a convincing case for investment, we would look at that.
“I would add, if it was feasible to do it, why did the SNP not do that when they were in power?”