I was kindly introduced to the word scotoma last week. The dictionary definition is ‘a mental blind spot; inability to understand or perceive certain matters.’ I would have found it difficult to find a better word to describe the on-going debate, and I use that word very loosely in this case, in respect of public sector pensions culminating in the strikes on 30th November.
Things have been moving at such a speed it’s hard to keep up and to pick out the fact from the rhetoric. The week of the strike began with a bit of school yard name calling as trade union Unite issued their “Dossier of hypocrisy” exposing the extent of cabinet minister’s pension entitlements. All that did was make the case that those particular public sector pensions need to be reformed as much as, if not more than, all the rest. Read more »
A little tale of everyday folk and how sharing and best intentions may not always achieve the results you expect……………..
Peter, Graham, Phil and Rachel have just started their arts course at University in London and are sharing a house. Being arts students they have a lot of spare time on their hands. One evening, after a hard day staring out of the window, they’re in the pub (unusual for students I know!!) and Graham mentions he really needs a car for a part-time job he has on the other side of the city, and can’t get there easily using public transport because of the timing but he can’t afford it with all his other bills. Read more »
As charities face continuing issues with their defined benefit pension provision I’d viewed the consultation on the Section 75 regulations with some degree of optimism in the hope that there might at last be a recognition that unconnected organisations participating in multi-employer schemes might at last be viewed as a special case. Indeed pensions minister Steve Webb responded to some of my comments in a recent Pensions Week article by referring to the consultation.
Unfortunately the focus of the consultation is very much on connected organisations and centred around the impact of corporate activity and misses the specific issues faced by third sector employers entirely. Schemes are being forced to operate with one hand tied behind their backs and participants offered less flexibility than would be the case if they had their own scheme leading them to make decisions which are undoubtedly against their long terms financial interests.
Our full response to the consultation can be found here and it is to be hoped that the scope of the consultation can be widened and this inconsistency dealt with.
I noticed the announcement last week that the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations Pension Scheme (“SFHAPS”) has been renamed the Scottish Housing Association Pension Scheme (“SHAPS”).
I’m sure the strategic removal of the “F” from the acronym will re-assure members about why their pension scheme unding has allen from just below eighty-ive percent to less than sixty-ive percent in 3 years and less than ifty percent on the PP(F) basis!! Read more »
I’ve seen a number of exercises recently which have looked to model potential scheme mortality costs in relation to the quality of health of the scheme membership. The rationale is that certain employers may have a workforce which is likely to be in poorer health and therefore have a lower life expectancy than might be assumed as ‘standard’. This can then be used as a basis to adjust the mortality assumptions and therefore reduce liabilities, deficit and ultimately costs.
Whilst the results of these exercises are often illuminating I would seek to add a note of caution to the process and those considering such a review need to consider the positives and negatives. Read more »
It is interesting to note, as we await the content of Lord Hutton’s report on public sector pensions, the amount of speculative material that is being produced on the subject. It is already possible to discern that views and arguments are becoming to polarised and we have even had suggestions of a National strike over the matter.
Deputy PM Nick Clegg summarised the problem as a consequence of the persistent under-estimatation of the value of the pensions promise due to inappropriate funding methodologies and increasing longevity which in turn have given rise to insufficient contribution rates over an extended period of time.
A helpful contribution to the debate Read more »
Professional Pensions reported my concerns about the promotion of defined benefit schemes to 3rd sector employers and my view that any such promotion which failed to ensure that the employer fully understood the attendant risks and uncertainties, was irresponsible and totally inappropriate. This elicited some interesting responses and I wanted to thank everyone for their comments on this important issue. There did seem to be a bit of confusion however, which I wanted to clear up.
My comments are clearly focused on DB provision in the third sector. Stephen Nichols, the Chief Executive of the Pensions Trust, was given a 2 page platform and a video to share his views on “Saving DB” and I thought it completely fair and balanced of PP to carry an alternative view and I thank them for that. Other senior staff within TPT have espoused similar views recently around DB so it wasn’t unreasonable to assume it was something of a ‘house view.’ The Trust is a highly regarded and respected organisation marketing primarily defined benefit pension scheme services to third sector employers and I was concerned that some of these employers may accept such a suggestion as being right for them and I wanted to ensure that they were totally aware of the risks involved.
In my experience of advising 3rd sector organisations they are ill-equipped to deal with defined benefit pension arrangements and certainly with ‘multi-employer’ DB arrangements where there is a supplementary risk that the strong will be required to pay for the weak as well as for themselves. The funding position of TPT schemes is not unique, you only have to consider schemes like PNPF and MNOPF to name but two, but their target market is. One respondent accused me of having a binary view and perhaps I do – DB Schemes should be left to organisations who can afford the contributions now and in the future and can deal with the volatility of liabilities and costs. Is anyone seriously contesting that view? Read more »
I remember with some fondness Denis Norden and his clipboard each Christmas taking us through another collection of bloopers and mishaps. The strange thing was that the title was a bit misleading as it quite clearly never was alright on the night.
Early in 2010 I made some predictions about the likely outcome of the SFHA pension schemes actuarial valuation and unfortunately when the results were made public these proved to be all too accurate . As I mentioned in the later blog you really didn’t have to be Derren Brown or own a fully functioning crystal ball to arrive at the results. Read more »
A wave of optimism broke out as I read a recent interview with Sarah Smart, the Chair of the Pensions Trust (“the Trust”) in which she quite sensibly highlighted the risks faced by charities from their final salary pension schemes.
However the optimism was short lived, as whilst finding it difficult to disagree with the sentiments expressed they struck me as being at odds with another recent article where Mrs Smart appeared to continue to promote the use of Defined Benefit schemes with the statement “Despite numerous and well-publicised assassination attempts on DB Schemes over the past few years, I remain hopeful that they may yet prove to be Rasputin-like in their resilience and stubbornly refuse to lay down and die.” In the same article she had confirmed that she had effectively turned a DC Governance seminar into a sales pitch for DB. Am I the only one who sees some inconsistency here? Read more »
In Hanoi, under French colonial rule, a program paying people a bounty for each rat pelt handed in was intended to exterminate rats. Instead, it led to the farming of rats!!
The Government has announced a huge cull of quangos in a move it says is aimed at improving accountability as well as meeting deficit reduction objectives. Whilst I don’t expect this particular cull to result in the establishment of quango farms in the home counties, it may well have equally unintended consequences as I doubt what could be very significant pensions implications have been properly considered. These implications may well threaten the future solvency of some organisations not directly mentioned, and only loosely connected, and dwarf any potential financial savings expected. Read more »