THE Essex Pension Fund has defended the decision to recruit its former chairman as a consultant after a Freedom of Information request revealed Rodney Bass was paid £8,000 for the role.

After 20 years as the fund’s investment steering committee chairman, Mr Bass took on an advisory role to help less experienced committee members following Essex County Council’s May election last year.

The temporary job was specially created for Mr Bass - the details of which emerged from a Freedom of Information request lodged by Colchester borough councillor Martin Goss.

Mr Goss has challenged the decision as a “strange use of taxpayers’ money” and wants transparency around the recruitment procedure which took place.

He said: “A huge disappointment would be the way I’d describe it.

“It just smacks of the old boys’ club and seems questionable.

“The decision has been wrapped up in his knowledge of the pension fund but surely the paid staff would have that.

“The other question is then, how was the role advertised?

“Was it fairly tendered or just given to Mr Bass the day he retired?

“It was clearly hidden because it took a Freedom of Information request to surface this information.”

The Essex Pension Fund is run by Essex County Council as the administering authority for the Local Government Pension Scheme in Essex, but is a separate entity.

Whether or not the role was advertised publicly, and how the rules surrounding council procurement and recruitment applied to this situation, was not addressed by pension fund chairman Susan Barker in her response.

But she explained Mr Bass was chosen because he “had a background in investment banking and was a member of the investment steering committee for 20 years”.

She said: “Before the May 2017 elections, he was also the Essex Pension Fund’s representative on the Access pool’s joint committee, a body which oversees the pooling of finances from 11 pension funds from across the south east of England.

“In light of this experience, it was considered Mr Bass was the most appropriate former councillor to undertake this short-term, specialist role, which ended in December 2017.

“After the May election, the reconstituted steering committee consisted of seven councillors, five of whom joined the committee for the first time.

“It was recognised by the new committee that the new councillors would benefit from the insight of a former member, providing insight and background into previous strategy and investment decisions for a short period of time.”