The report was introduced by Vicky Jenks, Pensions Admin Delivery Lead. She said the biggest project that had been worked on in the last quarter was the member self-service portal. Information had been sent out initially to deferred members, who were not currently contributing but held benefits in the pension scheme, as these were the first members to have their accounts on the portal activated. So far there had been a ten per cent uptake from deferred members. There had been a slight delay in the rollout of activations of employee members, but letters were due to go out to active members within the next few weeks and promotional material would be sent to employers so it could be circulated amongst staff. Annual benefit statements would be published to the self-service portal by 31 August.
Vicky Jenks said there were no major issues with the key performance indicators. There had been a promising increase in the amount of work that had been completed regarding transfers. This was partly due to increased staff capacity to work on this project. As from 1 April the Fund was no longer responsible for administering the Fire Pension Scheme.
Members were told there had been a relatively high number of amber breaches in March and a red breach was recorded in February. The red breach was caused by a Multi Academy Trust taking its payroll in-house and subsequently struggling to provide pensions data on time. Vicky Jenks said the Trust had stopped using iConnect after taking its service in-house, although this was due to be reinstated. The Pension Fund had been working with the Trust to help it meet its statutory deadlines.
Vicky Jenks said there had been a further
delay in the publication of the anticipated governance consultation
document from the Department for
Levelling Up Housing and Communities and this was now not expected
until autumn at the earliest. This meant the Fund would be delayed
in progressing with anticipated
workloads arising from the consultation
The guaranteed minimum pension reconciliation exercise had been completed by the deadline of 31 March and underpayments and overpayments had been corrected. Vicky Jenks said she had attended the PLSA Conference along with Chris Norton (Strategy and Commissioning Manager – Treasury, Pension, Audit and Risk) and the Chair.
Responding to a question from Jeff Carruthers, Vicky Jenks said annual benefit statements would be published online but members were able to opt out of this and continue to receive paper copies if they wished.
Responding to a question from the Chair, Vicky Jenks said something equating to a life certificate would be sent out to pensioners living overseas. The Fund also had access to the DWP’s Tell Us Once service and was a member of the National Fraud initiative, which allowed staff to confirm details of a notification of a member death.
Vicky Jenks confirmed the red breach was
related to the receipt of February data and was reported by the
Fund in March. The number of breaches reported in April and May had
dropped significantly compared to March. This was likely due to
March being financial year end when many employers and members were
Vicky Jenks confirmed the overpayments referred to in the report relating to the guaranteed minimum pension reconciliation related specifically to Warwickshire. She confirmed that in one case there had been an overpayment of £28,000 to an individual. However, it had been agreed to write this and the other overpayments off, as there was no suggestion of culpability on the part of the individual pensioners in knowing they were being overpaid.
The Chair noted that administration of the Fire Service Pension Fund had been transferred to the West Yorkshire Pension Fund. He said this was an efficient organisation used by several LGPS funds.. Vicky Jenks said there had been some initial issues after the transfer was first made but overall things were working well.
The Chair informed the Board he had attended the PLSA Conference and had noted during a presentation given by Teresa Clay regarding the delayed consultation referred to earlier that seven items were likely to be proposed. One of these related to funds investing up to 5% of assets to support levelling up. The Chair said she had clarified that while Funds would be expected to invest up to five per cent into levelling up; if there was already investment in this area then this could be included in the 5% target. There would also be a greater requirement to report on climate risks; strengthening in training and expertise; greater transparency in annual reports; and acceleration in ensuring money was paid into the pools .Ms Clay had also indicated that the consultation would set the direction for greater scale and collaboration between pools.The Chair said it had been suggested by some that consideration should be given to some of the pools being merged to assist with the levelling up process, with some suggesting that only one pool would be needed.
Members noted the contents of the report.