Minutes of the meeting of the Local Pension Board
held on 27 May 2020 via Skype
Cllr J B Hughes
Ken Finch, Treasurer
Richard Fairhead, Fire Leaders Association - Prospect, Employee Representative (Chair)
Jane Honey, Fire Officers’ Association
Helen MacArthur, Assistant Chief Officer
Julie Brown, Pensions Manager
Kevin Gerrard Dyfed Pension Fund Pensions Manager
Martin Morgan Dyfed Pension Fund Deputy Pensions Manager
Alwen Davies, Members' Liaison Officer
Due to Cllr Apsley only being able to access the meeting via telephone, he tendered his apologies. Following a discussion, it was agreed to proceed with the meeting and if required some reports could be deferred to the next meeting.
Richard Fairhead was elected Chair for the meeting.
Cllr Bryan Apsley
Bob Mason, Fire Officers’ Association.
2 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
3 MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING
3.1 The minutes of the meeting held on 13 January 2020 were approved as a correct record.
4 TERMS OF REFERENCE
4.1 The Scheme Advisory Board (Wales) reviewed all Terms of Reference documents compiled by the Fire and Rescue Authorities in Wales to ensure consistency. Following the review an amendment was made to the current document detailing voting rights of members. During the meeting it was recommended that the document refers to North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority rather than Service and this recommendation has been applied.
4.2 RESOLVED to approve the revised terms of reference.
5 FIREFIGHTERS PENSION SCHEMES – UPDATE REPORT
5.1 The Pensions Manager presented the report which informed members about the scheme membership, together with updates on:
• the All Wales Firefighters’ Pension Group and North West Regional Fire Pension Officers Group
• transitional challenge
• overview of FPS bulletins and circulars.
5.2 Due to current payroll demands, it was not possible to obtain current figures of operational employees who are not enrolled within a firefighters’ pension scheme. However, the latest available figures show a high percentage of opt outs relates to retained duty personnel, who more than likely have access to a pension through their primary employer. However, it was noted that measures are continuously being taken to encourage employees to join the pension scheme via pension clinics and the Weekly Brief.
5.3 Members queried the number of pension forecasts provided during 2019-20, in particular the link to subsequent retirement. Members were informed that most forecasts related to individuals who went on to retire from the Service. Forecasts are only supplied in specific circumstances; every August, members receive an Annual Benefit Statement and a forecast may also be formally requested within six months of a potential retirement date. For all other instances, members use the ‘My Pensions Online’ facility.
5.4 Members were informed of two cases currently with the Pensions Ombudsman for determination. Members are familiar with both of the cases.
5.5 RESOLVED to note the report.
6 FIREFIGHTERS PENSION SCHEMES LOCAL PENSION BOARD –
ANNUAL REPORT 2019-20
6.1 The LPB’s draft annual report, which detailed the work of the board during the last financial year, was presented for members to consider prior to its submission to the Fire and Rescue Authority.
6.2 The Pensions Regulator requires Local Pension Boards to compile an annual report that provided commentary on:
• Conflicts of Interest
• Recommendations of the Board
• Forward work programme.
6.3 The Board’s conflict of interest policy is available on the Authority’s website; to date no conflicts have been declared.
6.4 Members are aware of the importance of maintaining their pension knowledge and understanding of the firefighter pension regulations and constant changes. It was noted that due to virtual Skype meetings training was temporarily placed on hold, however, training will recommence in the autumn.
6.5 The work programme completed during 2019-20 covered specific aspects within the Pension’s Regulator’ Code of Practice 14 and they also follow through into 2020/21. Members were asked to approve the work programme for 2020/21.
6.6 RESOLVED to recommend the annual report 2020/21 for presentation to the Fire and Rescue Authority.
7 DYFED PENSION FUND (DPF) UPDATE (SCHEME ADMINISTRATOR)
7.1 The report was presented to update members on the administration of the schemes by Dyfed Pension Fund.
7.2 The report presented provided assurance that the scheme is being properly administered and gave updates on:
• regulatory update
• business continuity
• GMP reconciliation
• data quality reports
• My Pensions Online
7.3 Kevin Gerrard, Pensions Manager, provided an update on scheme administration during the lockdown period. Three members of staff continue to work from the council offices and the remainder of the team are working from home. Maintaining staff within the office is vital to check and process incoming and outgoing mail. The administrators pay over 1,500 pensioners and deal with a large volume of mail; to date business and the service provided has not been negatively impacted by the implementation of lockdown. Calls are diverted to mobile phones to ensure continued service.
7.4 ACO MacArthur informed the Board that having the presence of the administrators was highly beneficial and this could continue to be facilitated using technology.
7.5 The Board received an update on ‘My Pensions Online’ uptake and due to the low level of registrations (55% of active members registered to date), the administrators advised that a key time to increase awareness was in the months prior to the issue of annual benefit statements.
7.6 Regarding data quality, the next update report will focus on the scheme specific data that the administrators need to focus on. However, it was important to note that historical data cleansing has caused most of the issues rather than poor data from the payroll department.
7.7 RESOLVED to note the information provided.
8 FIREFIGHTERS PENSION SCHEMES DISCRETIONARY POLICY STATEMENT
8.1 The report informed Members of the requirement for the scheme manager (the Authority) to produce a Firefighters Pension Discretionary Policy Statement.
8.2 The report will subsequently be presented to the Fire and Rescue Authority for Members to approve the resolutions within the Firefighters Pension Scheme Discretionary Policy Statement and to seek approval that, on behalf of the scheme manager, decisions will be delegated on a day-to-day basis to the Chief Fire Officer and Treasurer.
8.3 It was noted that the Fire and Rescue Authority is required under the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme regulations to make decisions on matters relating to the administration of the Schemes. The Authority is required to review and where necessary publish a discretions policy detailing whether discretion will be applied or otherwise.
8.4 RESOLVED to approve each discretionary resolution within the Firefighters Pension Scheme Discretionary Policy Statement and to delegate day-to-day decisions to the Chief Fire Officer and Treasurer.
9.1 ACO MacArthur informed the group about the Service’s activities and business continuity plan during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Service had implemented Business Continuity plans and employees were working from home; all have access to email and telephone contact and therefore business is continuing as usual. A transition meeting is scheduled for 29 May 2020 to look at plans for the next three to nine months.
9.2 Pension clinics will resume but via Skype. The Service will also progress with current pension issues, in particular, the Booth judgement
10 RISK REGISTER – AREA 3 FUNDING AND GOVERNANCE
10.1 Members were reminded that the Pensions Regulator recommends that Local Pension Board members consider and review their Risk Register during each Board meeting. It had previously been agreed to undertake a rolling review of particular risk areas during future meetings and therefore the funding and governance risk area was presented at this meeting for consideration.
10.2 A key risk highlighted to the Board was that relating to central government funding towards employer superannuation costs. Funding for 2020/21 has been approved but future funding is not guaranteed.
10.3 The Board recommends that the risk register’s overarching document clearly explains that the risk rating is post control and mitigating actions.
10.4 RESOLVED to note the Funding and Governance Risk Area of the Register for 2020/21, and that any changes or updates will be incorporated into the register and the revised document published on the Authority’s website.
11 MATTERS TO BE REFERRED TO THE FRA
11.1 The revised terms of reference, annual report and the firefighters pension schemes’ discretionary policy statement will be submitted to the Authority.
12 ANY OTHER BUSINESS