Dispute over pension continues

A former lecturer whose pension sparked a three-year legal battle between a college and local authority will have to fight on for her money following an Appeal Court ruling.

Valerie Cook, who took early retirement from Birmingham College of Food on the eve of incorporation, became the focus of a dispute between the college and Birmingham City Council over who should pick up the bill for her pension enhancements.

The Court of Appeal last week overturned a High Court judgment saying the college should find the cash, ruling instead that the authority should pay. However, the council has never accepted the legality of the pension package offered to Mrs Cook by the college, which it considers is too generous, and the former lecturer now faces a further year's wait before the High Court can rule on the issue.

The college and council fell out when the authority agreed to pay only five years' enhancement on Mrs Cook's pension, claiming that the college had responsibility for the balance of one year and 206 days.

The college insisted that, since Mrs Cook had retired the day before colleges left local authority control on April 1 1993, the council, as her employer, should take full liability.

To break the deadlock Mrs Cook, backed by the lecturers' union NATFHE, took action in the courts against both warring parties to clarify who should pay her pension.

The pension sum in dispute is an extra Pounds 1,028 lump sum plus an annual index-linked increase of Pounds 342 - an estimated Pounds 20,000 extra in total. Mrs Cook receives the rest of the pension.

College of Food principal Eddie McIntyre welcomed the Appeal Court decision to shiftthe bill to the authority, saying that "an important principle was at stake".

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