A top female police chief has sparked fury by retiring with a potential £450,000 taxpayer-funded pension bonus – when she quit just SEVEN MONTHS after a lucrative promotion.
Sharon Rowe used to earn around £100,000-a-year as one of four Assistant Chief Constables with cash-strapped West Midlands Police.
Her annual salary then rose to £140,000 after she was chosen over three colleagues and promoted to Temporary Deputy Chief Constable in November last year.
But the 50-year-old officer was only in her new role for seven months before she officially retired on Sunday – after 30 years in the police.
Today it emerged the promotion could have boosted Ms Rowe’s future pension payouts by an astonishing £456,773 by the time she reaches the age of 82.
Incredibly that includes a potential tax-free lump sum bonus of £83,493 because police pensions are based on an officer’s final year salary.
The revelations have caused a stir within West Midlands Police – which has seen pay freezes and job reductions as it faces cuts of almost £150million.
It also comes less than a year before pay reforms which will see police pensions based on average career earnings rather than a final salary figure.
Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, fumed: “Public sector pensions are already far more generous than most in the private sector could ever hope to achieve, and the irresponsible way in which the police force has allowed these officers’ pensions to spiral is unacceptable.
“These officers deserved good pensions, but the force should have shown more prudence in the way they’re spending taxpayers’ money.
“The potential extra cost of these increased pensions is huge.”
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Ms Rowe had taken the Temporary Deputy Chief Constable on November 11, replacing Deputy Chief Constable Dave Thompson who was assigned to work on a ‘special project’.
She officially retired on the weekend but it is thought she left at the end of April because of days accrued, including holidays.
And she is not the only senior West Midlands Police officer to have recently benefited from short-term promotions at the end of their career.
Clive Burgess was promoted from Chief Superintendent to Assistant Chief Constable for less than five months before his retirement on April 1, increasing his final salary to around #100,000.
The officer, who had covered the Great Western and Central Area, is now set for a huge potential pension pot bonus during the period of his retirement.
But defending both promotions, Deputy Chief Constable Dave Thompson said they had been approved by Chief Constable Chris Sims after consulting West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Bob Jones.
He added: “We recognise that there was an additional cost to the force and this will always be a consideration however both individuals were selected on the basis of the value they could bring to their respective roles.”
Ms Rowe had been an Assistant Chief Constable since transferring to the West Midlands in 2009 from the Met.
She took over from DCC Thompson after he was moved to work on a project called Innovation and Integration Partner – said to be a “groundbreaking piece of work that will look at the delivery of a more information-equipped policing model.”
Ms Rowe was chosen for the high-profile role ahead of her three experienced fellow ACCs – Marcus Beale, Gary Cann and Garry Forsyth – who are all still with the force.
She was also one of the highest ranking female officers in the country and headed policing in the West Midlands for the Olympics, the Papal visit and the August riots of 2011.
Earlier this month she was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list by being awarded the Queen’s Police Medal and said she was ‘delighted and very honoured.’
She added: “It has been my privilege to serve the public and I am humbled by this award.
“I feel very lucky to have spent my career in such interesting places, culminating in the
position of Temporary Deputy Chief Constable with West Midlands Police.”
Praising her after he retirement was announced, Chief Constable Chris Sims said:
“Sharon has provided a major contribution to policing over the last 30 years, at a local, regional and national level and the Command Team wishes her best wishes in her well earned retirement.”
West Midlands Police has been forced to shave 20 per cent off its budget since 2010, with cuts totalling £126 million.
And this year it is expected to make further savings of around £23 million.
SHARON ROWE PENSION
The salary rise from £100,000 to £140,000 led to a huge boost to Ms Rowe’s pension pot and potential tax-free lump sum.
Officers receive two thirds of their salary upon retirement – but crucially it is based on the final year of their salary.
Ms Rowe’s final year salary was a combination of five months at £100,000 and seven months at £140,000, working out at an average of £123,331 for the year.
Under her Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) salary Ms Rowe would have received two thirds of her £100,000 wage as an annual pension, working out at £66,666.
But her final year promotion means her annual pension rocketed to around £82,220 – a rise of £15,554-a-year.
The vast majority of officers cash in the maximum 25 per cent allowed of their pensions upon retirement – called commutation – to receive a tax-free lump sum and a reduced annual income.
If Ms Rowe cashed in the maximum 25 per cent of her former ACC pension, she could have banked a £357,824 lump sum and a reduced annual pension payment of £50,000.
But her new final year salary means she can now cash in the maximum 25 per cent and receive a £441,317 lump sum – an increase of £83,493.
Her annual pension would then be set at £61,665 – up £11,665 on her ACC figure.
By the time Ms Rowe reaches 82 – the life expectancy for women – she will have netted an extra £373,280 annual pension plus £83,493 lump sum bonus – taking her total promotion-linked payouts to £456,773.