Thursday, July 09, 2015

Pensions Board (not bored)

With apologies for parochialism, I didn't want to let pass blogging my attendance (though not as a member) at the inaugural meeting of the local Pensions Board last night (topping off a day which had already included a picket line in Bromley, a lunchtime protest in Brixton and the unanimous rejection of the Further Education employers' "zero per cent offer" by UNISON members at Lambeth College).

The Pensions Board is one of many coming into existence this year (following the 1 April deadline by which local Councils needed formally to have established them). The meeting was (as expected) dominated by the business of agreeing what the Board would b‎e doing with its time in future.

Although it's early days, it was encouraging to see Scheme Member representatives, as equals with employer representatives, holding Council officers to account and asserting their rights (as full voting members of the Board) to speak and ask questions on behalf of the workers who pay into the fund and pensioners who depend upon it.

Whilst pension fund governance is often seen as being about the investments of the fund (which are substantial), in a statutory defined benefit scheme (like the Local Government Pension Scheme - LGPS) where our pensions are fixed regardless of the performance of particular funds, the role of Pensions Boards can be far more about the administration of the scheme - a subject far less dry than it sounds when you consider that‎ our LGPS pension rights are amongst the most valuable things we local government workers own.

The most immediate implication of the performance of the fund, for local government workers, is the impact which it has, after each triennial actuarial valuation, for the employer's pension contributions which Councils are required to make from their ever diminishing revenue budgets. In Lambeth we have retained (non-voting) scheme member co-optees on the Pensions Committee to keep an eye on this, albeit we expect the Pensions Board to have oversight.

In the longer term, I hope Pensions Boards serve to maintain and develop interest in, and understanding of, our pension scheme by the local government workforce so that when this Government (or more probably the next) breaks the promise that the last changes to the scheme would be secure for twenty years, our members can more readily be mobilised for the fight to defend once more the principle that public servants are entitled to dignity and respect in old age.

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

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