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More turmoil ahead for pension funds

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There are few certainties in life, except where local government pension schemes are concerned, it would seem.

The first certainty is that the clamour for an end to the final salary element of pensions is not going to get any quieter in the next 12 months.

Calls to stop the ‘pensions apartheid’ enjoyed by public sector staff are unlikely to become more subdued in the run-up to the general election, even though the government appears to have pressed the pause button on its consultation work on reform.

The second certainty is that the upcoming triennial valuation of the local government funds on March 31 will expose a widening deficit - mainly because the last valuation took place close to the peak of the last stock market boom.

Opinion about the likely impact of this varies - some funds will be better placed than others to deal with future demands.

But pressure on councils to increase their contributions is likely to increase as the gap between desirable funding levels and reality is highlighted.

The 2007 valuation of pensions was £125bn for all funds, £107bn of which related to those in England and Wales.

A review by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy of 62 English and Welsh authorities showed schemes’ funding levels had increased from 74.9% at the previous valuation to 84.5% of liabilities.

Since then, the financial world has changed, and some predictions put next year’s valuation below the 70% level, although the figure will vary from fund to fund.

By the autumn of next year funds will be beginning to work on acceptable contribution levels at the same time that the next three-year comprehensive spending review is being formulated

It will add an extra element of gloom to the much-anticipated ‘perfect storm’ of financial woe local government has been bracing itself for.

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