Agenda and minutes

Surrey Local Firefighters' Pension Board
Thursday, 9 February 2017 10.00 am

Venue: Surrey Fire and Rescue Service Headquarters, Croydon Road, Reigate, Surrey, RH2 0EJ

Contact: Andrew Spragg 

Items
No. Item

1.

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND SUBSTITUTIONS

2.

MINUTES FROM THE PREVIOUS MEETING: 26 July 2016 pdf icon PDF 128 KB

3.

DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

    To receive any declarations of disclosable pecuniary interests from Members in respect of any item to be considered at the meeting.

     

    Notes:

    ·         In line with the Relevant Authorities (Disclosable Pecuniary Interests) Regulations 2012, declarations may relate to the interest of the member, or the member’s spouse or civil partner, or a person with whom the member is living as husband or wife, or a person with whom the member is living as if they were civil partners and the member is aware they have the interest.

    ·         Members need only disclose interests not currently listed on the Register of Disclosable Pecuniary Interests.

    ·         Members must notify the Monitoring Officer of any interests disclosed at the meeting so they may be added to the Register.

    ·         Members are reminded that they must not participate in any item where they have a disclosable pecuniary interest.

     

     

    Minutes:

    There were no declarations of interest.

4.

QUESTIONS AND PETITIONS

    To receive any questions or petitions.

     

    Notes:

     

    1. The deadline for Member’s questions is 12.00pm four working days before the meeting (3 February 2017).

    2. The deadline for public questions is seven days before the meeting (2 February 2017).

    3. The deadline for petitions was 14 days before the meeting, and no petitions have been received.

    Minutes:

    There were none.

5.

GOVERNANCE SELF-ASSESSMENT AND FORWARD PLAN pdf icon PDF 176 KB

    Purpose of the report:

     

    The Board is asked to note the content of this report and approve the revised forward plan (shown as Appendix 3). The Board is further asked to make recommendations if any further action is required.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Declarations of interest:

     

    None

     

    Witnesses:

    Jason Bailey, Pensions Lead Manager, Shared Services

    Neil Mason, Senior Advisor (Pension Fund), Finance

    Eric Jameson, Senior Pensions Administrator

    Lindsey Shaw, Workforce Information Officer

     

    Key points raised during the discussion:

     

    1.    The Board was informed that the self-assessment format had been produced by the Pension Regulator, and was intended to assist Local Firefighter Pension Boards identify gaps in the governance of the scheme. It was highlighted that the Board members had all reviewed and completed training on the code of practice relevant to the administration of public sector pension schemes.

     

    2.    The Board was informed that the self assessment had identified a number of areas that needed addressing in respect to managing risks and issues, and administration. The papers set out a forward plan that would prioritise these actions.

     

    3.    The Board discussed the support provided by the Local Government Association (LGA), and proposed it would be useful to see what other Boards had done since their establishment.

     

    4.    The Board was told that pension administration was provided by Orbis. It was highlighted that there was an opportunity to put a formalised service level agreement in place to support the proposed improvements in governance. The Board noted that this would potentially see an additional increase in the cost of administering the scheme.

     

    5.    The Board queried the work pensions administration were undertaking to validate membership records. It was highlighted that this was being undertaken in the next financial quarter and efforts were focussed on tracing deferred members without a current address on their record. It was noted that the Fund had 100 deferred member records and it was estimated 20% of these had no current address. The Board expressed the view that any activity to trace these members should focus on key cohorts, for example those about to retire. Officers explained that the preference was to conduct a blanket screening of addresses, as this had benefits in terms of economies of scale and in demonstrating to the regulator that sufficient steps were being taken to trace members. The Board commented that the Fire Brigades’ Union may be able to assist with updating member records.

     

    6.    The Board expressed interest in understanding the process for deducting contributions from Surrey Fire and Rescue Service and from members. It was requested that a colleague from Finance attended the next meeting to provide more detail in this regard.

     

    7.    The Board agreed to review progress against the forward plan in six months, the Chairman commented that the expectation was that the majority of actions identified would be addressed by that time.

     

     

    Actions/ further information to be provided:

    Board to review progress against the forward plan in six months time.

     

    Board to invite a representative from the Finance team to outline the process for making contribution deductions.

     

    Recommendations:

     

    That the Pension Administration team co-ordinate efforts with the Fire Brigade Union in order to update deferred member records where required.

6.

BREACHES POLICY pdf icon PDF 170 KB

7.

ADMINISTRATIONS STATISTICS pdf icon PDF 254 KB

    Purpose of the report:

     

    The Board is asked to note the content of this report and make recommendations if any further action is required.

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Declarations of interest:

     

    None

     

    Witnesses:

    Jason Bailey, Pensions Lead Manager, Shared Services

    Neil Mason, Senior Advisor (Pension Fund), Finance

    Eric Jameson, Senior Pensions Administrator

    Lindsey Shaw, Workforce Information Officer

     

    Key points raised during the discussion:

     

    1.    The Board noted that the most significant changes in the statistics were the number of retirements, and those that had re-enrolled who had chosen to opt-out. The Board was informed that the support offer around retirement was considered exemplary in terms of advice.

     

    2.    It was noted that the delay in providing annual benefits statements had been caused by an internal administrative issue that the Pension Service was seeking to resolve.

     

    3.    Officers highlighted that expertise in the administration of firefighters pensions was not sufficiently widespread across the Pension Service, and that this had a potential to impact on resilience. It was noted that training was being delivered across the team to ensure these concerns were being addressed.

     

    4.    It was noted that Orbis also provided pension administration for East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service. The Board was informed that sovereignty for the governance of each fund remained with the administering authority, though there were areas where the funds could seek to work together, for example in developing service level agreements around pension administration.

     

    5.    The Board discussed the number of re-enrollments that subsequently opted out. It was noted that officers had concerns that members were choosing to opt out without recognising the value of the scheme benefits. The Board discussed a number of factors that influenced this, including the perceived high level of contributions and the decision by some to pursue other investment opportunities.

     

    6.    It was noted by the Board that some union members had reported feeling concerned about the long term security of their pension benefits, given the number of changes to the scheme in recent years. It was noted that the tapered protection arrangements would come to an end in 2022. Board members questioned whether the general trends around opt-outs could be monitored and reported to the relevant national bodies.

     

    7.    The Board discussed how communications could be tailored to explain the key benefits of the scheme to non-members. It was highlighted that the death-in-service grant would be an impactful aspect to focus on in this regard. The Board asked whether an additional section on pensions could be included on the staff intranet.

     

    8.    The Board was informed that calculating the contribution holidays would have a significant resource implication for the Pension Service. It was noted that the guideline completion date of 31 March 2017 had no statutory basis, and must be set in the context of the requirements for the modified retained options exercise. It was commented that both exercises required additional resource, and cases were being prioritised where appropriate.

     

    9.    The Board was informed that a similar modified retained options exercise had been conducted in East Sussex. On the basis of the response rate, the Pensions Service anticipated approximately 20% would take up the option to backdate  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

DATE OF THE NEXT MEETING