The Chair noted that on page 20 it stated the Audit and Standards Committee was charged with governance of the Warwickshire Pension Fund; he said this should be amended to state the Committee shared in the governance. The Chair also noted that on page 25 it stated the primary responsibility for the prevention and detection of fraud lay with the Committee and management; he said this should say that responsibility lay with management. Councillor Chris Kettle said the Pension Fund relied on the expertise of auditors to help with the process of identifying and uncovering risks and fraud. He said was keen for the Committee to push back against any attempts made by an auditor to shirk its responsibilities in verifying the data, otherwise there was no point in having an auditor. He said it was an area the Committee needed to be careful about, but said there was nothing in the wording of the report that caused him concern. Andy Felton (Assistant Director, Finance) said there was an obligation for the Fund to provide as full a body of evidence as possible regarding governance, and this would be supplemented by the external auditor. He said the fact the auditor had not found anything of material concern should reassure members, and it was for the members of the panel to satisfy themselves that the information they had been presented with made sense.
Responding to a question from Robert Zara, Andy Felton explained that Border to Coast was a cooperative of 11 Pension Funds that had been pooled together, The Funds manage more than £50billion of assets collectively with around £35bn managed directly by Border to Coast. All local authorities were expected to be a member of a pension pool. Responding to a query made by Councillor Chris Kettle, Andy Felton said although a majority of the Funds that were part of the Border to Coast pool were based in the north, there are Funds spread across the country. Warwickshire’s membership was not based on geography but a shared strategy and ethos amongst the 11 members. He said although there were some pools based on geography, these had not tended to work as well due to conflicting philosophies between Funds. Additionally Border to Coast has a very strong reputation and is a top three performing pool.
Robert Zara noted that inflation had not been referenced in the report, and stated his belief it was a fairly significant risk and could have perhaps been worthy of inclusion. Andy Felton said inflation was more of an issue for future liabilities and contribution rates, it doesn’t impact the Fund in the same way it would the Council’s accounts, hence not being flagged as a risk around the closure of accounts information for the last year. He said Warwickshire’s funding was nearly 100 per cent compared to some partners having funding rates of 110 or 115 per cent, whilst others are lower, so Warwickshire is in a good position. It was currently unclear if the conflict in Ukraine would have an impact on the Fund. Andy Felton said however that if there was to be an impact, he would expect this to be within the parameters of what would be expected over a long-term period from the investment strategy scenario modelling Hyman’s have done.
Members noted the content of the report.