Wednesday, May 23, 2012

National Association of Pension Funds Local Authority Conference 2012

This was very informative and well organised conference taking place during an absolutely crucial time for the future of the local government pensions scheme (LGPS). I was there as a Councillor and member of the Borough LGPS Investment and Accounts committee.

I did “twitter” (in my case a very apt term?) during the conference (see hash tag @grayee and #napf).
The NAPF had amongst many other speakers the minster responsible for the LGPS, Bob Neill MP, the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, Charlie Bean; the Chair of the Local Government Association, Sir Merrick Cockell (who in a Q&A I referred to as “Michael”) and from the unions, GMB national secretary Brian Strutton.

The Chair of the NAPF is Joanne Segers. By coincidence the first ever trade union pension course I ever went on was delivered by her father, TUC tutor Terry Segers. Proper old school ex-fire brigade union.

Considering the number of forthright and opinionated individuals present at the conference, the Q&A sessions were quite quiet, which gave a opportunity to a certain gobby part time politician and union rep to somewhat hog the floor during questions.

Key issues to me from the speeches and seminars were:- how Housing associations are “gagging to build new homes” which if happened could help us get out of recession like it did in 1930’s; the real problem in pensions is not in the public sector but that private sector pensions were destroyed by various incompetents; if you truly want diversity on company boards why not have employee reps on them? Are fund advisers really interested in good governance and making company boards accountable? It’s a “no brainer that LGPS should share services" (if so why not just merge?); in the current LGPS if you earn £150k per year you pay less in percentage terms net than if you earn £15k pa (this is wrong, wrong, wrong); What is the collective term for Actuaries? Answer “An invoice”; the new proposed £2 billion infrastructure fund and LGPS governance (a possible national Local Government Pensions Board?)

There was clearly an expectation by speakers that the future of the LGPS negotiations would have been finalised by now. But there is some last minute hic-cups. This is immensely frustrating but I suppose they do want to make sure, as far as possible, that there is no misunderstanding or ambiguities about the “agreement”. The ultra left trade union cry babies (the so called 0.8%ers) are of course still weeping tears at the prospect of no more strike chasing to bring about the revolution but we should have the final offer very soon.

It was good to see at the final session that the conference applauded DCLG pensions lead, Terry Crossley, who is retiring from the civil service. I have crossed swords (politely) with Terry for the past 10 years or so over beneficiary representation on the LGPS. I wish him well in his retirement and told him that if a deal is reached on a new look LGPS then he should have a new part time job and go out and sell the model to the private sector who are in desperate need of affordable and sustainable defined benefit pension schemes. 

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