The West Sussex Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) is a statutory pension scheme with 80,000 members in it. Those 80,000 people are either active LGPS members who are in work, pensioners in receipt of a pension, or deferred members who no longer work for an employer in the LGPS but who have a pension they will benefit from at a later stage.
The West Sussex LGPS has over 200 employers in it, from West Sussex County Council to academy schools, social care providers, Capita and so on: so many UNISON West Sussex members are in the LGPS. West Sussex LGPS has £5.5 billion in assets, all created from your deferred wages, which are used to pay out pensions for LGPS members.
Governance and oversight of the West Sussex LGPS is made up of two bodies:
- A Pensions Committee, made up of County Councillors, but also with seats reserved for a representative of scheme members and a representative of employers other than WSCC; and
- A Pension Advisory Board, whose job is to scrutinise the decisions of the Pensions Committee, made up of a chair and representatives of scheme members and employers.
UNISON has always, in the history of the West Sussex LGPS, provided the representative of scheme members on the Pensions Committee. This was a seat taken by former branch secretary, Chris Earwaker, current Branch Secretary Dan Sartin, and more recently, by Judith Taylor the West Sussex branch’s Pensions Officer.
However, when Judith decided to step down from the Pensions Committee after five excellent years, West Sussex County Councillors, rather than accepting a UNISON nominee to replace her – from what is, after all, the recognised trade union – decided instead to seek applications from the 80,000-strong LGPS membership, who the Councillors themselves would then interview for the position!
It was apparent to the UNISON West Sussex branch that Councillors did not want UNISON to play any formal role in LGPS scheme governance – despite the Pensions Committee being a direct link to oversight and governance of billions of pounds of our members’ deferred wages! The West Sussex LGPS is our pensions, our deferred wages – not theirs, and Councillors had no business telling UNISON we could no longer fulfil the role as scheme member representative.
It was clear that Councillors still believe an important function for them is to re-live the political battles of the 1980s, and the West Sussex branch sees the decision to exclude UNISON as hostile and provocative. We made representations to the most senior council officers, but they were unable to bring common sense to the councillors.
The branch asked its new Pensions Officer, Tim Stretton, to go through the interview process, and he was appointed to the vacant role. We are delighted for Tim and congratulate him. Tim will do a brilliant job for all scheme members.
We know UNISON members feel strongly that their deferred wages should have UNISON input to their stewardship, so we have managed to achieve and maintain this important role in a roundabout way. In our recent survey on Pensions, 86% of UNISON West Sussex members strongly agreed or agreed with the statement: “To me, it is important that UNISON members are the member representatives on the scheme’s governance bodies: its Pensions Committee and Advisory Board, and this should be maintained.”
So the good news is that UNISON maintain representation on the Committee with governance oversight of your LGPS pensions and contribution.
But we now also need to find a UNISON member willing to take a seat on the Pension Advisory Board (see 2, above), as Tim has had to give up his seat on the Advisory Board to take up the seat on the Pension Committee.
Could you take on the vacant Advisory Board role?
Full support will be given by the branch, including with your application if you need it.
Applications for the vacant Advisory Board seat must be submitted by Wednesday 6 July.
Please contact branch secretary Dan Sartin directly if you would like to find out more, via the branch office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 01243 777636. Retired members of the branch are eligible for this position.
We would love to hear from you so please don’t hesitate to get in touch.