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Pension board to involve all employers

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A new pension board due to be set up to oversee the running of local government pension funds is likely to involve representatives from private sector employers.

Proposals being considered as part of wider reform of the Local Government Pension Scheme would give private sector and third sector bodies a formal voice in the running of funds.

As well as a possible seat on the national level LGPS board that is set to monitor the overall cost of the LGPS and set high level strategy, non-council employers with staff in the scheme could play a role in the administration committees making decisions about the running and costs of individual funds.

The proposal, currently being discussed by the LGPS working group which is implementing reforms called for by Lord Hutton’s review of public service pensions, has been welcomed by both unions and non-council employers.

Brian Strutton, GMB’s head of public services, said individual fund committees should include other council and non-council employers in the scheme and member representatives but were currently limited in membership, sometimes to councillors from the administering authority.

“If you are a contractor or a charity, you feel very disenfranchised - you are not involved in the running of the scheme but you get the occasional letter about a contribution increase which is a whopping proportion of your pay bill,” he said.

The Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, which has previously been very critical of the cost of the LGPS for voluntary and charitable bodies taking over council services, has welcomed the proposal.

Ralph Michell, director of policy, said: “Pensions are a massive issue for our members so we would very much welcome their being more involved in the decision-making structures.”

A consultation on changes to local government pension scheme member benefits as agreed by unions, the LGA and employers is due to close today.

Talks about the reform of regulation and governance of the scheme continue alongside the passage of the Public Service Pension Bill.

Meanwhile, Lancashire County Pension Fund has invested £12m in a community owned solar power station in Oxfordshire via a 23-and-a-half year bond.

Pension fund chair David Westley (Con) said: “There’s been a lot of discussion about local authority pension funds investing in community infrastructure. I’m pleased that Lancashire has been able to put this into practice with this £12m investment.

“Our first responsibility is to secure the best returns for people in our pension fund, but I think many will be interested in knowing that their pension investments are helping fund worthwhile and sustainable schemes such as this one.”

Mark Luntley, one of the board members of the Westmill Solar Cooperative which Lancaster has invested in, is  responsible for the LGA’s work in developing a collective bond agency for local government.

He said: “We think there’s a potential for pension funds to invest in council and community infrastructure. This is an example of this in practice.”

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