PROTECTIONS granted to certain pension schemes deemed “unlawful” on grounds of “age discrimination” will now be extended to all areas of the public sector – but the administration for the council could last “50 years”.

Amendments to the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) to remove “unlawful discrimination” from public service pensions, is sought by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

The “statutory underpin” will extend to every scheme member active and accruing benefits during a revised period – but the “immense task” for Buckinghamshire Council to apply the new regulations could spell ‘liabilities for half a century’.

The matter was noted during a Pension Fund Committee meeting, on Thursday, September 24.

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Existing transitional protections, initially for those within ten years of their retirement age on April 1, 2012, will apply to all members active on March 31, 2012, who accumulated benefits from April 1, 2014, in the career average (CARE) scheme.

“The remedy is that we will now protect any member who was active on March 31, 2012, and was a member of the 2014 scheme, as well,” said pensions administration manager, Claire Lewis-Smith.

“The protections are that from April 1, 2014, to March 31, 2022, when benefits are assessed they will be done so under the 2014 rules and under the previous scheme rules of 2008.

“Whichever scheme provides a more beneficial pension is what [members] will be granted.”

Cllr Timothy Butcher said the “administrative strain” to undertake this task, described as “onerous” in council documents, will be “considerable”.

The council must acquire from scheme members and employers, data for “hours and service breaks during the underpin period, providing the option to aggregate membership periods and to retrospectively review benefits awarded back to April 1, 2014”.

This procedure will “need to be calculated twice” in many cases.

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Cllr Alan Bacon probed the council on its “plans for coping” with the task.

Ms Lewis-Smith said a “project team” has been created, though it is in the “early stages”.

Adding: “The legislation is expected to be laid in line with the other public sector schemes.

“Her Majesty’s Treasury are looking to lay the legislation to apply from April 1, 2023.

“The Local Government Association is asking that the LGPS is laid earlier.

“We are talking to our software providers because a lot of the remedy for this will come with automation, so it depends how much bulk processing we can do once we’ve got that historical data collected.

“Getting accurate data from scheme employers is probably going to be the biggest issue…some of those employers may have left our scheme.

“Cases we will prioritise, are retirement benefits that have been paid, and death in service cases.”

Cllr John Gladwin said: “What further liabilities might this scheme have? We are already at a deficit and I’d like to have some idea how that deficit will increase or change with these recalculations.”

Council spokesperson, Julie Edwards, said: “There’s an assumption of 0.4 per cent, but some of it we just won’t know because of the benefits people will accrue in the future and the salary scheme.”

Adding: “There will be liabilities for possibly the next 40 or 50 years.”

Cllr Gladwin said employers would have to “make up the shortfall”.