News

12th June 2024 Publication of the Scheme Annual Report

The Scheme Advisory Board has published its eleventh Scheme Annual Report.  The aim of the Scheme Annual Report is to provide a single source of information about the status of the Local Government Pension Scheme for its members, employers, and other stakeholders. This report aggregates information supplied in the 86 fund annual reports, as of 31 March 2023 for the reporting year 2022/23.

10th June 2024 New LGPS informer document launched

The Scheme Advisory Board along with the Institute for Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) has published an informer document to explain the timeline and information flow for the triennial valuation and accounting/audit purposes.

The document is intended to be a practical document that explains:

  • how the LGPS works in practice
  • key information flows between employing bodies, pension funds and actuaries
  • the content and purpose of annual accounting reports and triennial valuations
  • key accounting requirements for employing bodies
  • the role of external auditors.

The primary audience for this informer is expected to be scheme employers and their external auditors, however, pension fund officers and actuaries will also find the document useful.

The Secretariat wishes to thank all the participants listed on page 3 of the document, in particular Peter Worth of Worth Technical Accounting Solutions Ltd, members of the Compliance and Reporting Committee Audit Working Group and the attendees of the Audit Roundtable for all their input into the document.

Any feedback should be sent to: [email protected]

30th May 2024 Dissolution of Parliament - Impact on Economic Affairs of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill

The Scheme Advisory Board understands that today's dissolution of Parliament means that the EAPB(OM) Bill - more commonly known as the BDS Bill - falls, as it has not proceeded through all stages and therefore cannot be given Royal Assent prior to dissolution. Once party manifestos are published, the Secretariat will check whether any party commits to bringing the Bill back to Parliament in future.

17th May 2024 SAB writes letter to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Laura Trott MP about the gender pensions gap

The Scheme Advisory Board has written to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Laura Trott MP, suggesting that the Government take a consistent and active approach to the gender pensions gap across public sector pension schemes. Cllr Roger Phillips, the Board Chair, argues that a gender pensions gap analysis, like that commissioned by the Board, would give a dynamic picture of how scheme members’ salaries change over time and illustrates the different trajectory of men and women’s careers. As such it adds context and richness to the statutory gender pay analysis that public sector employers already undertake. An update on the work of the Gender Pensions Gap Working Group will be provided to the Cost Management, Benefit Design and Administration Committee when it next meets on 1 July.

15th May 2024 Local Government Minister sends letter to all LGPS funds in England

The Scheme Advisory Board understands that the Minister, Simon Hoare MP, has today written to all Pension Committee Chairs and administering authority section 151 officers in England asking that they respond by July 19 setting out their responses to a number of  questions. The questions relate to the completion of pension asset pooling by the March 2025 deadline, as well as to how funds ensure that they are run efficiently, with appropriate governance structures in place. Funds are specifically asked whether they could achieve long-term savings and efficiencies if they were to become part of a larger fund through merger or creation of a larger pensions authority. Funds' responses do not need to be more than two pages in length.

19th April 2024 SAB Scheme Cost Assessment now complete

The Government Actuary's Department has completed the valuation of the Local Government Pension Scheme (England and Wales) as at 31 March 2020. This was the first scheme valuation undertaken since revisions were made to the cost control mechanism, which the Government consulted on in 2021. The methodology by which this is undertaken was revised last year, which widened the cost corridor (the amount by which the scheme costs could vary from the target cost before action was taken to address it) from 2% to 3%. The process was also revised to include consideration of the wider economic situation through a new “economic check” that was introduced alongside the previously established core cost control mechanism.

The valuation has found that the core ‘cost cap cost’ of the scheme lies outside the 3% cost control mechanism corridor (3.2% below target cost). The new ‘economic cost cap cost’ of the scheme also lies outside the 3% corridor, but in the other direction (7.3% above target cost). As a result, the mechanism as a whole is not breached and the Government is not proposing to make any changes to scheme benefits. The Scheme Advisory Board will shortly be publishing the final report of the scheme cost assessment that it is required to undertake under Regulation 116 of the LGPS Regulations 2013. However, the Board has already seen the initial results and agreed that it is not minded to recommend to the Secretary of State any changes to scheme benefits through that process.

17th April 2024 Publication of Fire Brigades Union and British Medical Association vs HM Treasury Cost Control Mechanism Appeal Decision

The full judgment in the Fire Brigades Union and British Medical Association vs HM Treasury Cost Control Mechanism appeal has now been published. The Court of Appeal agreed with the earlier ruling from the High Court (published in March 2023) which ruled in favour of HM Treasury on all grounds. The Court of Appeal’s judgment can be read here and a summary of the earlier High Court judgment can be found on the Legal Opinions page of this website.

28th March 2024

Preparing the Pension Fund Annual Report’ updated guidance now published

The updated guidance for preparing the fund annual report can be found on the Board guidance page. This guidance is the first publication which has been reviewed and jointly approved by the SAB’s Compliance and Reporting Committee (CRC), the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). It replaces the 2019 guidance produced by the CIPFA Pensions Panel, which was disbanded in 2021. The SAB, CIPFA and DLUHC would like to acknowledge the contribution of all those involved in the production of the new guidance.

The new guidance applies to 2023/24 annual reports which are due for publication by 1 December 2024, and later years. The guidance says funds should use their best endeavours to comply fully with the requirements for 2023/24 but exercise judgement where, because of changes to the previous content, to do so would require disproportionate effort or cost. The guidance will be kept under regular review. 

SAB blog post on the Gender Pensions Gap in the LGPS

Jo Donnelly, Head of Pensions at the LGA, and Secretary to the Local Government Pension Scheme Advisory Board has written a blog post to set out the SAB’s work on the Gender Pensions Gap in the LGPS to Local Authority employers. The blog covers the work the SAB undertook to analyse the gap and highlights the action plan which is looking at possible changes that could be made to the LGPS to reduce levels of inequality. As part of the ongoing work programme on the Gender Pensions Gap, the LGA are hosting a virtual event aimed at HR/Senior Managers at Councils and LGPS Administrators on 9 May 2024 at 2pm. The event is free for Local Authorities who are LGA members. 

25th March 2024 Summary of Lydia Seymour (Counsel)’s legal advice following receipt of Sharia Law and the LGPS report

In December 2023, the Board approached Lydia Seymour (Counsel) following the receipt of a report into the relationship between Sharia Law and the LGPS written by Mufti Faraz Adam of Amanah Advisors. Counsel was asked to update her initial legal advice on the outstanding questions from her 2022 advice. The key messages from her advice are that the legal risk of a case being successfully brought against a scheme employer in an Employment Tribunal on the basis of indirect discrimination, or a judicial review being brought against an administering authority or the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) for breach of the public sector equality duty, remain extremely low. The summary of Counsel’s advice is on the Legal Opinions and Summaries page

20th March 2024 Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill enters Committee Stage

The Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill, also known as the Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions Bill  has entered Committee Stage after its second reading in the House of Lords on 20th February 2024. The Bill seeks to ban LGPS administering authorities from making investment decisions influenced by political and moral disapproval of foreign state conduct, except where this is required by formal Government legal sanctions, embargoes, and restrictions.  The Local Government Association (LGA) has issued technical briefings in response to each stage and the most recent briefing issued after the second reading in the House of Lords can be found here. The Secretariat will continue to evaluate amendments put forward and will suggest amendments that would improve the Bill if no similar amendments are tabled. The Bill team have indicated their expectation that Royal Assent will be attained swiftly once the Lords proceedings are complete. A fuller update on the Bill’s activity since June 2023 can be found in the paper for Item 5 at the Board meeting held on 11th March 2024.

6th March 2024 Board issues response to DLUHC's consultation on audit backlog

The SAB has issued a short response to the DLUHC consultation on "Addressing the local audit backlog in England". The consultation was discussed at the Compliance and Reporting Committee when it met on 12th February. The Committee agreed that the Board should express concern that if there were wide-spread disclaiming of LGPS administering authority accounts in order to meet the new deadlines, then there would be knock-on consequences for the 18,000 scheme employers that rely on information from the pension fund audit in order to complete their own audits. Essentially, the scheme employer auditor will need to do further work to gain assurance on the information provided it to it by the LGPS actuary on its assets and liabilities under the scheme, which well may be material, depending on a range of factors. The Board’s response also takes this opportunity to re-emphasise the representations it made in an earlier letter asking that pension fund audit should be separated out from the host authority audit. This would also resolve some of the consequential problems with backlogs as it is not the audit of the pension fund account which is usually holding up completion of the host authority’s audit report.

25th January 2024 Board Chair and Secretary meet with Minister Simon Hoare MP

On Tuesday January 16th the Chair of the Board, Cllr Roger Phillips, and the Board Secretary Jo Donnelly were pleased to meet the minister for local government, Simon Hoare MP, in person. Topics discussed included McCloud; the government’s response to the next steps on investments consultation; as well as government progress on the Good Governance recommendations and on the climate risk reporting consultation response.

23rd January 2024 SAB commissioned report on the LGPS and Sharia law

In 2022, the Board considered the legal advice of Lydia Seymour (Counsel) on the issue of members opting out of the LGPS on the basis of their (principally Islamic) religious belief, and whether this might constitute unlawful discrimination on behalf of the scheme. Lydia’s advice suggested that before giving a definitive opinion, we needed to instruct an expert in Islamic finance to provide advice on the issue of whether the LGPS is Sharia compliant, and the range of views that Muslim members and potential members might have on that question. The Board commissioned Mufti Faraz Adam of Amanah Advisors to produce this report.

This report has now been received and examines the issue primarily from the starting point that a statutory defined benefit (DB) pension scheme, like the LGPS, is an extension of the employer/employee contract. The report concludes that as a part of the contractual arrangement between employer and employees, Muslim employees can continue to contribute to, and benefit from, the excellent benefits offered by the LGPS. The underlying rationale for this conclusion is set out below:

  1. Mufti Faraz Adam acknowledges that the pension benefits payable to members upon retirement are deferred salaries arising from the debt obligation placed upon the employer when contributions were paid into the fund.
  2. Employees are owed a debt by their employers in the form of salary and pension contributions.
  3. The principle of risk transfer is pivotal when considering ownership in Sharia law. In the LGPS the investment risk and legal ownership of the funds rests with scheme employers and the administering authority – not the employee. Consequently, LGPS members do not own the underlying investment assets. This effectively isolates members from the investment activities carried out within the funds.
  4. The money to pay pensions is largely derived from employer and employee contributions, which ultimately come from local government funding or private-sector revenue (which are Sharia compliant), and from investment income.
  5. While not bearing the responsibility for, or risk of, the investment choices made by funds, Mufti Faraz Adam recognises that Muslim (and indeed all scheme members) have a legitimate interest in fund investments and whether these can be made in accordance with their moral and religious beliefs.

The Board would like to thank Mufti Faraz Adam for providing such a comprehensive and considered opinion.

The Board hopes that the report will offer comfort to Muslim members of the LGPS in the knowledge that they can continue to participate in the scheme. Indeed, we hope that the report may encourage some who had opted out to opt back in and ensure that they benefit from the employer contribution to their pension, as well as the valuable benefits that the LGPS offers.

In publishing this report, the Board makes no claim of expertise on the matter of Sharia law and wishes to be clear that this report represents the views of the author and not the Board.

The aim of the Board in commissioning the report was to address possible legal risk for scheme employers, and also to ensure that the LGPS is as inclusive as possible. The Board will now go back to Counsel for her definitive opinion and will consider that advice at the earliest opportunity.

The Board would emphasise that it has no ability to implement directly any recommendations made in the report, it can only make recommendations to the Minister who is responsible for the rules of the scheme. No proposals for changes to the scheme will be considered until the Board has had a chance to fully analyse the further advice from Counsel.

The Board believes that the LGPS offers excellent value for money for members, as employers make a significant additional contribution. Membership provides members and their families with important benefits and greater security in retirement, as well as protection in the unfortunate event of ill-health or death.

19th January 2024 Scheme Advisory Board (SAB) update on The Pension Regulator’s (TPR) General Code of Practice

The Scheme Advisory Board welcomes the publication of The Pension Regulator’s (TPR) General Code of Practice (‘the Code’) which has been laid in Parliament and which is expected to come into force on 27th March 2024. It replaces Code of Practice 14 for Public Sector Pension Schemes and brings together 10 previous TPR Codes into one single Code. The Secretariat is studying the Code closely to identify any new requirements for funds and how the Code’s requirements align with items on the SAB workplan, such as the SAB’s 2021 Good Governance recommendations.  

TPR’s research on governance and administration shows that the LGPS already has high standards of governance in place, but the Code provides an opportunity for funds to review current practices, but also presents challenges during what is an already busy time within the LGPS. Clarity is required on which parts of the Code specifically apply to the LGPS and what these mean for funds and how they should be applied in practice. The SAB will support funds in understanding any new requirements in the Code and where needed, will produce new or update existing guidance to assist funds with their responsibilities.

To inform this work, the SAB secretariat is holding an online focus group on Thursday 8th February 2024 from 10am to 12pm to gather initial feedback on the Code and understand what support and interpretation is needed to assist funds with Code compliance. If you wish to put yourself forward to join the focus group, please email [email protected]

The SAB’s LGPS live webinar taking place on 6th March 2024 at 3.30pm will focus on the Code and the requirements and challenges it presents for the LGPS. You will be able to register in due course here: LGPS-Live | Home

20th December 2023 SAB issues statement on surpluses

The Board hopes that the full statement it has issued on the topic of fund surpluses is helpful to LGPS fund officers, LGPS employers, pension committee and board members, as well as advisers and scheme members. It has been drafted with input from members of the Board’s surpluses working group, to whom the Board is grateful for their time and support.

23rd November 2023 DLUHC publishes Investments Consultation response

Alongside the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, the response to the “next steps on investments” consultation was published by DLUHC on 22 November 2023.

The consultation largely adopts the measures the government originally consulted on, with the main points from the consultation (in paragraph 9) set out as follows:

“After having considered the responses, the government will now implement the proposals that we set out in the consultation to accelerate and expand pooling, and increase investment in levelling up and in private equity. We will:

  • set out in revised investment strategy statement guidance that funds should transfer all assets to their pool by 31 March 2025, and set out in their ISS assets which are pooled, under pool management and not pooled and the rationale, value for money and date for review if not pooled
  • revise pooling guidance to set out a preferred model of pooling including delegation of manager selection and strategy implementation
  • implement a requirement in guidance for administering authorities to set a training policy for pensions committee members and to report against the policy
  • revise guidance on annual reports to include a standard asset allocation, proportion of assets pooled, a comparison between actual and strategic asset allocation, net savings from pooling and net returns for each asset class against their chosen benchmark
  • make changes to LGPS official statistics to include a standard asset allocation and the proportion of assets pooled and the net savings of pooling
  • amend regulations to require funds to set a plan to invest up to 5% of assets in levelling up the UK, and to report annually on progress against the plan
  • revise ISS guidance to require funds to consider investments to meet the government’s ambition of a 10% allocation to private equity.”

The Secretariat is continuing to read and absorb the response, and an update to the Board’s website will follow soon.

19th October 2023 SAB issues guidance on Academy Conversions

In response to a recommendation in the s13 Report on the 2019 fund valuations, produced by the Government Actuary’s Department (GAD), the Scheme Advisory Board has prepared guidance on common actuarial approaches adopted by LGPS funds on a local authority school’s conversion to academy status (including an explanation of some of the common nomenclature used to describe these approaches). This guidance was developed in a collaborative way by a working group that included GAD, DLUHC, DFE, fund practitioners, fund actuaries, academy school representatives and trade unions. The Board wishes to thank all of those who contributed to its production.

17th October 2023 SAB Chair writes to the Department on New Fair Deal consultation response

Cllr Phillips has written to the Department for an update with progress with the implementation of New Fair Deal in LGPS. This is in response to increasing representations from both employee representatives and employers that the current arrangements, which require negotiation of a new admission agreement for each contract, could be improved.

2nd October 2023 SAB submits full response to DLUHC's Investments Consultation

The Board has today submitted its full response to DLUHC’s consultation on investment issues which opened on 11th July 2023. This consultation included proposals in a range of areas, including; setting a target date for the migration of all listed assets to pools, a proposed move to fewer pools (with a target size of £50bn), a requirement for funds to have a plan to invest up to 5% of assets to support levelling up in the UK and a proposal for funds/pools to dedicate 10% of assets to private equity investments.

The Board’s response was shaped by a working group comprised of elected members, scheme representatives and practitioners from the Board’s membership, led by Board Chair, Cllr Roger Phillips. The Secretariat would like to thank all who contributed to this response for their input. In addition to the above link to the full response, key messages can be found in the story dated 20th September 2023.

22nd September 2023 HM Treasury publishes WMS on Treasury Cost Control Mechanism

On 19 September 2023, HM Treasury issued a written ministerial statement detailing reforms to their cost control mechanism. Reforms have been made to address concerns that the cost control mechanism was not meeting its original objectives, following a review by the Government Actuary and a public consultation. the mechanism now only assesses costs associated with the post-2015 reformed schemes, increases the margin by which costs need to vary from the target in order for benefit, or member contribution, changes to be required from 2% to 3% of pensionable pay, and includes an ‘economic check’ such that changes will only happen if the costs would still be outside the same margin had the impact of changes in long-term economic assumptions been included. HM Treasury’s valuation cycle is currently underway, and the outcome of the valuations are expected to be confirmed later this year via the publication of each scheme’s valuation report. Changes to employer contribution rates will be implemented with effect from 1 April 2024, and any changes to benefits required to bring a scheme back to target cost would apply retrospectively from 1 April 2023. The SAB are currently in the process setting its own cost control mechanism and the assumptions on which this process is based are currently being agreed.

20th September 2023 Key Messages from SAB on the DLUHC Consultation on Investment Issues

The Board welcomes this consultation, which gives much needed clarity on the Government’s future intent on investment policy. We will engage fully and positively with the Department, funds and pools to build as broad a consensus as possible on the way forward. Before submitting our detailed response, we thought it would be useful to share some key principles that inform our view and will form the basis of our response.

  • On investment pooling we need to start from where we now are and not revisit earlier arguments. The most important question is how we move forward in the best way.
  • The picture drawn in the consultation is of a very top-down structure: with the Secretary of State potentially giving directions, pools having ownership of most decisions and individual LGPS funds left with quite residual functions. We believe that perspective needs to be altered to a more collaborative model, where funds are recognised as having a strong and active role in the governance of pools. They should be able to hold pool executives to account and there is an important role for member representatives in that too.
  • Where pools have been successful this has been built more on alignment of strategies than of total AUM (something recognised in the research quoted in the consultation). Alignment requires building relationships of trust, which is why governance is key. Good governance requires partner funds to be engaged and intelligent owners of pools and over time to develop relationships of trust with each other and the pool management. That can’t simply be mandated and there is an ongoing role for DLUHC and the Scheme Advisory Board to facilitate that process, not least by actioning the Board’s Good Governance recommendations.
  • The Minister needs to seriously consider how the messages in this consultation could negatively affect progress with pooling. If there is a prospect of some pools ceasing to exist in the relatively near future, then that will give many funds occasion to pause transfers and also reconsider their participation in that particular pool. This is precisely the opposite effect to what the Minister is trying to achieve.
  • If the number of pools is to reduce, the Minister needs to carefully balance any further marginal gains through increased scale against what may prove a greater cost of disruption (in terms of fees, tax charges and diversion of management attention at both funds and pools). There is no indication in the consultation of how this process is expected to occur nor what the respective roles of government, pools and funds would be.
  • We should also recognise that there are potential risks associated with greater size as well: concentration risk and the loss of ability to be nimble and take advantage of smaller opportunities. There are likely to be different “sweet spots” in scale for different asset classes.
  • We welcome the desire for increased transparency on outcomes and training of pension committee members. The Board will work with DLUHC to help develop consistent reporting standards and trusts that the Minister will grant us the budget necessary to support this work.
  • On Levelling Up , most funds are keen to invest in place-based initiatives where particular projects can be demonstrated to be consistent with the fund’s fiduciary duty and appetite for risk. Some funds have a deep understanding about how their local economy works, which could give them a competitive advantage over other investors. But the key barriers are scale and supply of opportunities: we would like to see a deeper consideration of what can be done collectively to address those.
  • Similarly, UK infrastructure projects have to be competitive with other opportunities around the world. We believe that Central Government should take a more active role in this space, eg a clearer and more activist industrial strategy, a comparable offer to support transition to those offered in other jurisdictions (like the significant funding commitments announced by the European Union and the US Government.
  • For the private equity target , we feel the increasing attempts by the UK Government to intervene in asset allocation is unhelpful. Asset allocation is the key determinant of success and requires careful consideration of the specific circumstances of the fund and is based on taking expert professional advice from actuaries, investment consultants and others. Statements from Ministers cheerleading particular asset classes, albeit well meant, are not relevant or particularly helpful to that process.
  • It would also be helpful to clarify whether this is intended to cover private markets and growth assets more generally. We believe it makes less sense to limit it to private equity, narrowly defined.

10th August 2023 Publication of the 2022 Scheme Valuation Report

The Scheme Advisory Board has today published a detailed report that pulls together data from all of the 2022 local fund valuation reports. This 2022 Scheme Valuation Report aims to provide a rich source of information about a range of vital issues for scheme members, employers and other stakeholders. It shows that:

  • The average funding level has improved from 98% in 2019 to 107% at 2022 (on local funding bases), with all Funds reporting an improvement in their position since 2019
  • Average contribution rates to meet future service costs rose from 18.6% of payroll at 2019 to 19.8% of payroll at 2022
  • Overall, contribution rates fell – reflecting lower deficit contributions – to 21.1% of payroll at 2022 from 22.9% of payroll at 2019
  • Employee contributions increased marginally from 6.5% of pay to 6.6%

The report also examines the main assumptions used by funds in their 2022 valuations, looking at trends around setting of the discount rate, life expectancy and future expectations for inflation and salary increases. Continually improving the availability of reliable information about the Scheme as a whole is a key function of the Board.

The Board would like to thank Barnett Waddingham for its help in drafting the report.

27th July 2023

Compliance and Reporting Committee's Annual Report working group - Review of 2019 CIPFA ‘Preparing the Annual Report’ guidance

The Annual Report working group (established as part of the Compliance and Reporting Committee) has been reviewing the 2019 CIPFA ‘Preparing the Annual Report’ guidance and has identified several areas within the current guidance which now require updating and clarification. A priority has been to streamline the guidance and reduce duplication wherever possible with other reporting obligations – this was a message that was fully endorsed by DLUHC.

Another key area of improvement is how funds should report and categorise the allocation of assets. This area is covered in DLUHC’s recent consultation on LGPS investments, which proposes a requirement for ‘a single standard set of data on investments across annual reports and LGPS statistics’. The new guidance will suggest funds follow a ‘worked example’ template provided by the SAB which aims to improve consistency and better scheme-level reporting of asset allocation in the SAB annual report. Using standard data to report asset classes also aims to make the annual report process simpler for funds and more consistent for readers to directly compare data. The ‘worked example’ template for the categorisation of assets will shortly be shared by the SAB secretariat team which should be incorporated into reporting as soon as possible whilst the new guidance is being prepared.

From an administrative perspective, the Key Performance Indicators are being reviewed, with various fund officers and software providers invited to provide comment on the current guidance. The aim is to better define them and allow for standardised reporting so that funds can properly benchmark themselves against others. The new guidance aims to be in place ready for the 2023/24 reporting period but there are reporting changes which we hope can be implemented on a voluntary basis for 2022/23 annual reports to help with consistency in the asset allocation reporting area.

Update on LGPS Gender Pensions Gap Report

The earlier Gender Pensions Gap report for LGPS identified a substantial difference between the average level of LGPS pension benefits accrued by male and female scheme members. The difference between men and women as to their accrued benefits in the Local Government Pension Scheme is 34.7% for benefits in the reformed CARE scheme and 46.4% for benefits in the legacy final salary scheme. For benefits in payment the difference was even greater (49%).

While this potentially indicates some progress towards equality, the Board asked the Government Actuary’s Department (GAD) to explore these gender gaps in more depth, focussing on:

  • Career patterns – in particular, evidence of recent and past part-time working
  • Differences relating to employers or categories of employers
  • Comparing our analysis with the LGA’s 2019 gender pay gap report

This further report sets out GAD’s findings. Essentially there is no simple answer and there seems to be a complex interaction between the types of work women do, their career patterns (in terms of part-time working and gaps in service) and their ability to progress their careers after having taken on childcare or other caring responsibilities. The report shows, for example, that:

  • Part-time working patterns are closely related to gender pension (and pay) gaps for LGPS members. Controlling for differences between men and women in terms of both current and historic part-time working patterns reduces, but does not eliminate, these gender gaps. Possible explanatory factors include length of service and employer differences.
  • Pay and pension gender gaps can be attributed to both differences for males and females working for the same employer (‘within employer’) and differences in the proportions of males and females working at higher or lower paying employers (‘between employer’) as well as between different categories of employers.

There is as yet no settled approach to data and methodological issues that would allow detailed comparisons to be drawn between gender gaps with different public sector pension schemes. The Board has therefore proposed that GAD put in place a common reporting framework for all of the public sector schemes, potentially working this into the quadrennial scheme valuation process. Similarly, we believe that the relationship between gender pay and pension gaps reporting needs to be addressed to allow for greater transparency and understanding.

Of course, the main question is what does the Board do with this information? The Board has decided to up a small working group to consider next steps. For example:

  • Are there any in-scheme changes that would help address the levels of inequality (e.g. around the ability to buy back service)
  • Can we direct employers to best practice in managing the career paths of those who take time off for caring responsibilities
  • How do we communicate with members to ensure they are informed about the potential pension implications of the career choices they make
  • How can we mainstream this kind of analysis so we can properly evaluate “what works” and how much is left to do.

If you are interested in taking part in the working group, then please 2019 contact the SAB Secretariat directly.

11th July 2023 Consultation on Next Steps for Investments in the LGPS in England & Wales

DLUHC has issued a consultation on a number of investment-related proposals for the LGPS. These include imposing a deadline of 31st March 2025 for the transition of listed assets from funds to pools; proposals around increasing LGPS investments in private equity and projects that meet the government's levelling up agenda; details around the implementation of the CMA Order relating to investment consultants, and a technical change to the 2016 investment regulations. The consultation will run for twelve weeks and closes on Monday 2nd October 2023. You can view the consultation on the gov.uk website. DLUHC is asking that respondents use the online consultation link to respond. The Scheme Advisory Board will be responding to the consultation and will publish information about its discussions, as well as a draft response, in due course.

4th July 2023 Second reading of the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) in the House of Commons

The Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill, also known as the Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions Bill had its second reading in the House of Commons on 3rd July 2023. The Bill seeks to ban LGPS administering authorities from making investment decisions influenced by political and moral disapproval of foreign state conduct, except where this is required by formal Government legal sanctions, embargoes, and restrictions. In the course of the debate, significant concerns were expressed about the Bill. These centred around its rationale, its practicability and also whether it constituted a significant over-reach of Ministerial authority. The LGA has published a technical brief on the Bill which includes a section on the Bill’s effect on pensions as well as the LGA view on this. The SAB will be providing written evidence on the Bill to the Public Bill Committee which will scrutinise the draft Bill. The Vice-Chair of the Board, Jon Richards, and LGA’s Head of Pensions, Jo Donnelly, have also been invited to give oral evidence to that Committee. As far as the Board is aware, there is no evidence that any LGPS fund has instituted inappropriate politically motivated boycott or divestment policies.

26th June 2023 Publication of the tenth Scheme Annual Report

The Scheme Advisory Board has today published the tenth Scheme Annual Report. The aim of this Annual Report is to provide a single source of information about the status of the LGPS for its members, employers, and other stakeholders. Continually improving key information about the Scheme as a whole is one of the top priorities of the Board. This report aggregates information supplied in the 86 fund annual reports, as of 31st March 2022.

23rd June 2023 Government publishes the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill

The Government this week published a Bill to ban LGPS administering authorities from making investment decisions influenced by political and moral disapproval of foreign state conduct, except where this is required by formal Government legal sanctions, embargoes, and restrictions. The Board will consider this Bill, and what briefing it offers to parliamentarians on the questions raised by it, when it meets on 17 July.

However, we would point out that LGPS is a well-funded and well-run scheme. Administering authorities take their statutory and fiduciary duties around the investment of pension funds very seriously. They also take very seriously their duties under the Equality Act to foster good relations between different communities and to eliminate discrimination. As far as the Board is aware, there is no evidence that any LGPS fund has instituted inappropriate politically motivated boycott or divestment policies.

15th June 2023 Letter from the Minister on governance and reporting of climate change risks in the LGPS

DLUHC have confirmed that implementation of climate reporting obligations would be delayed at least until next year. Presuming regulations are forthcoming in time for 1st April 2024, reports covering the period 1 April 2024 - 31 March 2025 would need to be produced by December 2025. In the meantime, the Responsible Investment Advisory Group (RIAG) would look at what advice could be given to funds wishing to do a shadow reporting year, and also what could be done to standardise the development of climate reporting approaches at the pool level.

30th May 2023

Audit issue 2021/22 – Pensions triennial valuations

Councils may be aware that the delay in finalising accounts for 2021/22 has meant that information from the March 2022 triennial valuations of pension funds has become available before the audit of many accounts has been signed-off. This has led some auditors to request that the accounts are re-done using this more up to date information.

Following discussions between stakeholders, last week the National Audit Office (NAO) issued supplementary guidance to auditors (guidance note SGN 3) and CIPFA issued supplementary guidance to accounts preparers (CIPFA Bulletin 14 Supplement). Taken together these make it clear that there is no need for the accounts to be re-stated using the triennial valuations, unless the original valuation in the accounts contained material omissions such as not taking account of an existing large-scale restructuring/redundancy programme. Hopefully, this will now prevent the issue of pension valuations adding further to the delays in finalising accounts.

‘McCloud’ remedy in the LGPS – supplementary issues and scheme regulations consultation

DLUHC has today launched a consultation that seeks views on changes to the Local Government Pension Scheme in England and Wales (LGPS). This follows a previous consultation that DLUHC undertook in 2020 on proposals to address discrimination found by the courts in the ‘McCloud’ case. The Court of Appeal ruled in 2018 that younger members of the judicial and firefighters’ pension schemes had been unlawfully discriminated against – known as the McCloud judgement. The Department published the government response in April 2023 confirming the steps it will be taking to resolve the McCloud age gap discrimination in respect of the LGPS in England and Wales.

DLUHC are now seeking views on issues relating to the McCloud remedy. This will cover reconsulting on some areas, and consulting on issues not covered in the first consultation. The department are also seeking views on draft scheme regulations (see annex A) which would implement the remedy. The consultation closes at 11:59pm on 30 June 2023.

26th May 2023

Update to Employer Flexibilities Guidance Documents

The Board has decided to withdraw the Example Deferred Debt Agreement (Schedule A) that was available on our website in the Employer Flexibilities Guidance section. It has come to our attention that the version uploaded was the wrong one and it may require revision. Any funds that are in the process of using the template to enter an agreement, or have used it as the basis for a legal agreement with a scheme employer, are advised to contact the SAB Secretariat email address to discuss what the outstanding issues are and whether any further action is necessary. A revised document should be uploaded again shortly, and a further updates will be provided once that is done.

23rd May 2023

Cost Transparency Roadshows

The Scheme Advisory Board has set up a series of free regional training sessions for Local Pension Board, Committee members and fund officers on investment cost transparency.

Sessions are being arranged in London, Bristol, Wolverhampton, Leeds, Manchester and Cardiff. These sessions will provide:

  • An explanation of the purpose and background of the Board’s ground-breaking Code of Transparency
  • a case study from an LGPS fund on how investment cost information has been used
  • a troubleshooting session on how to use the online reporting system, run in conjunction with Byhiras (the system providers), and
  • a facilitated discussion on the information that fund officers should be receiving and how this information should be reported to pension boards and committees.

Sharia Compliance Report Commissioned

The Board received legal advice which said that before an opinion could be given on whether LGPS was consistent with anti-discrimination and public sector equality duties, it was necessary to instruct an expert in Islamic finance to provide evidence on a range of issues from an Islamic perspective. The Board has now commissioned expert advice on this from Amanah Associates and their report is expected in about three months’ time. Once that report is received, the Board will be in a position to seek and share Counsel’s opinion on this matter.

Reform of Board Scheme Cost Assessment (SCA)

DLUHC has issued the final regulations and published its response to the consultation on reforming the SAB’s own parallel process for reviewing scheme cost. This is the process set out in Regulation 116 of the 2013 Regulations, which runs during the HM Treasury-led quadrennial scheme valuation process. The changes take into account SAB’s response to the consultation and better align the SCA with HMT’s reformed cost control mechanism (CCM).

It helpfully re-iterates that the SAB process operates prior to the HMT CCM and gives the SAB greater flexibility in the making of recommendations to the Secretary of State where there is a breach. However, it leaves open for further discussion the link with the new “economic check” in the CCM.

Climate risk reporting in the private sector – Review of first year reports

TPR have published a review of climate-related disclosures by occupational pension schemes. The paper sets out TPR’s preliminary observations and feedback to industry, based on their review of a selection of climate-related disclosures published by occupational pension schemes. The review relates to private pension schemes but contains observations which may be useful for LGPS funds ahead of the implementation of climate risk (TCFD) reporting in the LGPS – which is now expected to commence from 1 April 2024, with first reports due in late 2025.

12th April 2023 Treasury statement on SCAPE rate reduction and response to 2021 SCAPE consultation

Through a written ministerial statement from the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the Government has announced that the Superannuation Contributions Adjusted for Past Experience (SCAPE) discount rate has been reduced to the consumer price index (CPI) plus 1.7 per cent. This is a reduction from the previous rate of CPI plus 2.4 per cent. The SCAPE discount rate is used to set the employer contribution rates in the unfunded public service pension schemes and determine the actuarial factors across all public sector schemes. The change takes effect from 30 March 2023 and the Government Actuary’s Department has already begun a review of actuarial factors applying in the LGPS. While that progresses, some non-club transfers and interfund calculations, and all CEVs for divorce purposes will need to be suspended until the new factors are issued. Detailed guidance on this has been circulated to administrators by LGPC.

The Government has also now published its response to the June 2021 consultation on the methodology used to set the SCAPE discount rate. It confirmed that the SCAPE rate will continue to be based on the expected long-term gross domestic product (GDP) growth figures. The Government also expressed an aim to review the level of the discount rate once per scheme valuation cycle (four years) rather than every five years.

6th April 2023 Sharia Compliance Report - Invitation to tender

The Board has received legal advice which suggests that it should instruct an expert in Islamic finance to provide evidence on a range of issues around Sharia Compliance in the LGPS. The Board has therefore issued this Request for Tender which calls for expert advice in this area. Interested parties can submit bids until 5pm on 9th May 2023.

Government responds to McCloud consultation

The Department for Levelling Up, Communities and Housing (DLUHC) has published their response to the consultation on amendments to the underpin. The consultation proposed changes to the underpin to address the discrimination found in the McCloud judgment and to ensure that it works effectively and consistently for all qualifying members. The consultation ended on 8 October 2020. Alongside the response, in collaboration with the Scheme Advisory Board, DLUHC published a factsheet summarising the remedy for members.

DLUHC expects to launch a further consultation this spring. The consultation will seek views on: issues that, because of the consultation responses, they have not yet made a final decision on (such as aggregation and flexible retirement), issues not included in the original consultation (such as compensation, interest and excess teacher service), and updated draft regulations. DLUHC will finalise the regulations after considering the responses to the further consultation. These will come into force on 1 October 2023, with backdated effect to 1 April 2014. You can access the consultation documents on the Scheme consultations page of www.lgpsregs.org.

4th April 2023 Climate risk reporting in the private sector – Review of first year reports

TPR have published a review of climate-related disclosures by occupational pension schemes. The paper sets out TPR’s preliminary observations and feedback to industry, based on their review of a selection of climate-related disclosures published by occupational pension schemes. The review relates to private pensions schemes but contains observations which may be useful for LGPS funds ahead of the implementation of TCFD reporting.

30th March 2023 SAB statement on Freedom of Information Act requests on climate advice and data

Some funds have raised with the Board the increasing prevalence of requests for information about the responsible investment policies of administering authorities. These may come from interested scheme members or activist groups and can be “round robin” requests that are made to all LGPS funds with a view to collating information across the scheme (and making comparisons between funds’ responses).

As public authorities, there are duties on all administering authorities to be open and transparent about their policies and actions. However, the resources available to deal with requests are not unlimited and there will be occasions where cost, commercial sensitivity or other considerations will outweigh the public interest in releasing information. Further guidance on this is available from the Information Commissioner’s Office. Support in how to respond to these requests, especially if they become onerous or vexatious, should be sought from the authority’s legal and FOI advisers.

If the new climate reporting duties had been brought in by the Government, as consulted on last year, from 1st April 2023 then that may have helped authorities currently considering the request from Carbon Tracker by putting, or at least having a plan to put, a large amount of information into the public domain which may have helped address some of the requests for information that are being received. Despite the delays in DLUHC concluding that consultation, the Board would recommend that all funds consider having a proactive publication scheme in place for climate data, and their stewardship activities, to minimise the volume of ad hoc requests that they have to field.

29th March 2023 GAD Gender Pensions Gap Report

The Gender Pay Gap Information Regulations 2017 put a requirement on employers with more than 250 employees to publish differences in pay between men and women. Analysis by the LGA in 2019 across local government employers indicated that there was a mean gender pay gap of 6.1% and a median gender pay gap of 4.0% amongst local government staff. While that is significant, it compared favourably to the economy as a whole, where the mean gap for 2021/22 was 9.7% and the median was 5.5%.

While there is a clear and obvious link between pension and pay equality, the Scheme Advisory Board decided to analyse the gender pensions gap in the Local Government Pension Scheme. This is because we do not expect differences in pay at any one point in time to be a complete explanation of differential pension incomes at retirement. For example, there are likely to be other variables which impact on pension benefit accrual, such as:

• The cumulative effect of lower than expected pay

• Career breaks and their effect on career progression

• Differences in opt out rates and take up of the 50/50 scheme

Research into the extent of the gender pensions gap was undertaken by the Government Actuary’s Department at the Board’s request using data from the 2020 scheme valuation. This has shown that the difference between men and women as to their accrued benefits in the Local Government Pension Scheme is 34.7% for benefits in the reformed CARE scheme and 46.4% for benefits in the legacy final salary scheme (in favour of men). The data also showed that the average pension in payment for a woman was £4,285 while for a man it was £8,466. These initial findings do need to be interpreted with some caution, though. The LGA pay gap analysis excludes all schools staff (and any other staff not directly employed by a Local Authority), while the gender pensions gap analysis includes data held on non-teaching staff working in schools, academies, further education colleges, some higher education institutions and many other non-Local Authority employers who can be employed under different terms and conditions. The Board will now be doing further work to understand the data and investigate causes, as well as considering possible next steps.

15th March 2023 Spring Budget - Changes to pensions taxation

The Chancellor has announced some changes to pensions taxation in the Spring Budget. The Annual Allowance (which is the maximum amount of pensions savings an individual can make each year before incurring a tax charge) will increase from £40,000 to £60,000 from 6 April 2023, with individuals continuing to be able to carry forward unused Annual Allowances from the three previous tax years. Changes have also been made to the Lifetime Allowance, the charge for which will be reduced to zero from 6 April 2023, before being fully abolishing in a future Finance Bill. Other changes were made to the Money Purchase Annual Allowance and Tapered Annual Allowance. More detail can be found in the Budget document and the Pension Tax Limits policy paper.

These changes will be welcomed by higher earners in the LGPS, as well as some middle-income earners with long local government careers who, before the recently announced change to the valuation date, were in danger of having to meet Annual Allowance charges for the first time due to the effect of high inflation rates. However, it should be remembered that the majority of LGPS members will not be affected by these changes and that the average LGPS pension in payment is only around £5,000 per annum.

13th March 2023 Publication of Fire Brigades Union vs HM Treasury Cost Control Mechanism Judicial Review

The full judgment in the Fire Brigades Union vs HM Treasury Cost Control Mechanism Judicial Review has now been published. The High Court ruled in favour of HM Treasury on all grounds. The judge also refused permission to appeal, but the FBU and other parties are able to apply for permission to appeal directly to the Court of Appeal. The full judgment can be read here.

6th March 2023 SAB submits its response to DLUHC’s cost management process consultation

SAB has submitted its response to the DLUHC consultation on reforms to the SAB scheme cost assessment process, which closes on 24th March 2023. The SAB scheme cost assessment is the part of the cost management process which operates independently of, and prior to, the HM Treasury directed cost management process. The response is generally supportive of the Department’s approach as they have taken on board many of the points made by the Board on how best to re-align the SAB process with the HM Treasury process, which was reformed last year. We hope that an opportunity will be found to make the necessary amendments to the 2013 LGPS Regulations ahead of the 2020 scheme valuation process being undertaken. The full response can be found here.

3rd March 2023 Publication of McCloud data issues guidance

SAB has published guidance to assist administering authorities with McCloud data issues. The guidance sets out what options administering authorities in England and Wales may consider if they are unable to collect the data needed to implement the McCloud remedy. It covers both missing data and data that may be inaccurate. The guidance should be read in conjunction with the legal advice provided by Eversheds on McCloud data issues which is referenced within the guidance document. The Scheme Advisory Boards in Scotland and Northern Ireland will decide whether to publish similar guidance. The SAB and LGPC teams would like to thank the working group members who supported the development of this work.

22nd February 2023 Climate Risk Reporting Survey Summary

Last year the Government consulted on new requirements for all LGPS administering authorities to put in place governance and risk management arrangements, as well as setting and reporting against various metrics and targets on climate risk and opportunity. These new functions present new challenges and come at a time when there are many other competing pressures. Consequently, the Scheme Advisory Board commissioned a survey to gauge the preparedness of pension funds for this change. Click to read more

We received a total of 51 responses to this survey. Approximately 30% of respondents indicated their fund does not have adequate resources to produce a risk report. From those without the adequate resources, 45% indicated they do not have a sufficient project plan in place to deliver a report by the anticipated deadline of December 2024. 25% of respondents do not believe that they have access to sufficient data to populate a risk report and a further 27% of respondents are unsure if they have access to the necessary data. Scope 3 carbon emissions data and carbon emissions data for alternatives and private markets were regularly cited as being extremely difficult to obtain. Although 56% responded that they have a plan in place to produce the data required to an acceptable standard, many funds cited they were dependent on the ability of third parties such as pools and fund managers to source the data and conduct the climate risk analysis.

35% of respondents indicated they had conducted a full assessment on what expertise was required for risk analysis. 27% have not and 35% of funds had undertaken some sort of assessment. 69% of respondents indicated they had a plan to source the resources required for the production of the report. While many funds indicated they were awaiting more certainty before carrying out assessments of what was required for the report, some were pressing ahead with plans as soon as possible.

The Board is working closely with the Department and administering authorities to better understand the challenge and support them through it. We intend to repeat this survey after the Government Response to last year’s consultation is published, and the precise requirements are clearer.

Interestingly, the survey also found that 25 funds reported a date of 2050 or sooner for reaching net zero in their asset portfolio, however a substantial number of respondents indicated that risk reporting will not change or will have a limited impact on their asset allocation or choice of investments. Rather they considered it as a means to “show progress” against targets set. Some stated that it provided a focus for engagement both with their asset managers and the underlying companies in order to effect real world change, rather than simply “greening” the portfolio.

20th February 2023 Revaluation Order/Public sector pensions increase

The Pensions Increase and Revaluation Order for public sector pensions has been published today alongside a written ministerial statement which sets out how the main public service schemes will be affected.

15th February 2023 Minister responds to SAB letter on External Audit

Lee Rowley MP, Minister for Local Government, has responded to a letter written to him in August 2022 by SAB on delays in the external audit of local authority accounts, including pension fund accounts. He welcomed the Board’s advice and recommendation to consider the separation of main authority accounts and the pension fund accounts and has asked his officials to consider the scope for developing this further. The full contents of the letter can be found here.

10th February 2023 Consultation on changing the revaluation date issued

DLUHC has issued a consultation on changing the in scheme revaluation date from 1 to 6 April, with effect from 1 April 2023. The proposed change will remove the impact of high inflation on the annual allowance and reduce the number of members incurring a tax charge. The consultation runs for two weeks and closes on 24 February 2023. You can view the consultation on the Scheme consultations page. DLUHC is asking that respondents use the online consultation link to respond. This will allow responses to be analysed more efficiently and quickly.

30th January 2023 DLUHC consultation on changes to the SAB’s cost management process

DLUHC has today launched an 8 week consultation on changes to the Scheme Advisory Board’s cost management process – the process that operates separately from but alongside the quadrennial scheme-level cost management process, which is based upon HM Treasury legislation and directions. The consultation follows the report from the Government Actuary’s Department into changes to the HM Treasury cost management process, and the resulting policy and legislative changes set out in HM Treasury’s response to that report. It acknowledges the differences between these two processes but proposes measures suggested by SAB in its consultation response to better integrate the SAB process within the statutory HMT mechanism. The consultation closes on 24th March 2023 and can be found here.

26th January 2023 SAB Scheme Valuation Report 2022

The Secretariat is currently in the process of planning for the Board’s 2022 Scheme Valuation Report. The report is aggregated using data from individual fund valuation reports. It would be a great help if funds could send their valuation reports to the SAB’s Data Analyst, Gareth Brown ([email protected]) as soon as they have a final version. The individual fund reports will be treated confidentially and only shared on the SAB website once published by the fund. Thank you in advance for your assistance.

9th December 2022 Chancellor announces "Edinburgh Reforms"

On December 9th, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a set of reforms to drive growth and competitiveness in the financial services sector. It has been confirmed that the Government will be consulting in early 2023 on issuing new guidance on Local Government Pension Scheme asset pooling. The government will also consult on requiring LGPS funds to ensure they are considering investment opportunities in illiquid assets such as venture and growth capital, as part of a diversified investment strategy. The Chancellor’s full Written Ministerial Statement can be found here.

7th December 2022 Board Chair and Secretary meet with Minister Lee Rowley MP

Cllr Roger Phillips and Board Secretary Jo Donnelly had a useful meeting with the Minister on December 7th, 2022. Topics discussed included pooling, government progress on the Good Governance recommendations, climate risk and reporting regulations for the LGPS and the impact of National Living Wage increases in the coming years on local government.

2nd December 2022 Further education reclassification

Following a review into the classification of further education sector, the Office for National Statistics has reclassified colleges and their subsidiaries in England into the central government sector. You can read more about Further education reclassification on the Government’s website. There is no automatic impact of this change for LGPS administering authorities, but the Board will be discussing the wider implications of this change with the Department for Education.

30th November 2022 2021/22 Annual Reports

The Board is aware that some pension fund audits are likely to be delayed again this year, largely due to issues with auditing the host authority’s accounts. There is a statutory duty under regulation 57 of the LGPS Regulations 2013 for administering authorities to publish an annual report ‘on or before 1 December’. The Board has written to the minister with proposals to help improve the timely completion of audit. In the meantime, the SAB urges administering authorities to publish their 2021/22 annual reports based on the best data available to them by the statutory deadline. Ideally, the report would be based on audited data. But if that is likely to result in a significant delay, the SAB asks funds to produce and publish reports based on unaudited data (labelled as draft), and to re-publish an amended annual report with the external auditor’s opinion and revised data after audit, where necessary.

18th November 2022 SAB finalises its response to DLUHC’s climate risk reporting consultation

SAB has submitted its response to DLUHC’s climate risk reporting consultation, which closes on 24th November 2022. The response includes some over-arching observations on the role of pension funds (as well as their limitations), the production of climate risk reports as well as responses to the Department’s specific questions on governance, scenario analysis, metrics, and risk management. The SAB welcomed the opportunity to engage with the Department’s proposals and believes that pension funds should be able to make a positive contribution by supporting the just transition to a sustainable future. The full response can be found here.

Earlier News articles can be found on the News Archive page