Vicky Jenks introduced the item and explained the report outlined what the administration team had been working on. A lot of work had been taking place preparing and testing the new member self-service, which would allow members to access their annual benefit statements online. Much of this entailed setting up account profile details for members. Vicky Jenks drew members’ attention to the key performance indicators listed in the report, which explained why some of them were off target. The report also noted recorded breaches, progress being made in relation to McCloud, and the guaranteed minimum pension reconciliation exercise.
Members said it would have been beneficial if the pages containing the key performance indicators and breaches had been printed in colour, as it was harder to tell which were rated as red, amber or green. Vicky Jenks said there had been an increase in the number of green breaches reported in January. She explained however that this related to one payroll provider that was responsible for the payrolls in a large number of schools; although the increase looked as though it was a significant issue, it had been caused by a single provider and had been relatively straightforward to combat.
Responding to a question from Jeff Carruthers regarding communication about the self-service scheme, Vicky Jenks said a plan was being developed and would be rolled out to all employers in due course. Priority for the rollout was being given to deferred members as they tended to receive their annual benefit statements first. Jeff Carruthers said he would like to have any communications sent out so it could be sent round staff at his employer.
Responding to a point raised by the Chair in relation to the guaranteed minimum pension reconciliation scheme, Vicky Jenks said it was anticipated more users would get back in touch with the Fund as they approached pensionable age. The introduction of the pensions dashboard had been helpful in reuniting members with their pensions. The next phase of the project would be to communicate to members how they could access the self-service portal to deal with their queries. The Chair raised the point that some users may have more than one pension pot under multiple schemes, and said the dashboard was a useful tool to help people with any questions they had and would prevent staff at the Pension Fund from becoming overwhelmed dealing with queries.
Mike Snow noted that some overpayments were due to be written off during the reconciliation process and asked for details on what values were involved. Vicky Jenks said there had been around 800 overpayments totalling approximately £2million. Approval for writing off the overpayments was being sought from the Leader of the Council. Liz Firmstone added that the recommendation given to all local authorities was not to try and recover overpayments. Vicky Jenks said some of the overpayments for pensions had come about because the information held by the Pension Fund and HMRC did not match up, which the Fund members would not have known about and would not have been expected to have acted upon. This was a situation affecting a large number of local authority pension schemes. Additionally, a large percentage of the overpayments had been for relatively small amounts. The Chair said he accepted this position, although if an individual had been overpaid by a significant and was aware of it then they should be pursued to try and recoup the overpayments. Nic Vine (Strategy and Commissioning Manager, Legal and Democratic) said that in many cases pursuing claims against individuals would cost the Fund money as the amount it cost to take action was more than the amount that would be reclaimed, and there was no culpability on the Fund members.
Responding to a question from Alan Kidner, Vicky Jenks said the reconciliation process had started in 2016 and it had taken time for the various Funds to work through it as they received information from HMRC. The final set of data files to reconcile had been supplied in 2019. Alan Kidner suggested the length of time taken to supply the information could have meant that some overpayments had been taking place over a longer period of time than necessary, and the situation could have been rectified if the information had been provided by HMRC sooner. Andy Felton said the exercise would mean overpayments would not be an ongoing issue.
Responding to a question from Mike Snow, Vicky Jenks said the number of underpayments was significantly lower than the number of overpayments. These had now been corrected and arrears paid back to members, and information on this would be available at the next meeting.
Members noted the content of the report and thanked officers for compiling a substantial amount of information.