FPS bulletin 40 - December 2020 has been published today.

Our short-and-sweet final bulletin of 2020 contains updates on various matters of interest. Joanne Livingstone also reflects on her first months as Scheme Advisory Board chair in a year-end message to stakeholders.

Thank you for the support you have shown the team during this most unusual of years. We look forward to working with you all in 2021.

With best wishes for the season and a safe, healthy new year

The Bluelight Team

The Home Office and LGA Bluelight Team have issued a joint statement regarding public service pension age discrimination remedy:

“As you are aware the Treasury’s public consultation on the Public Sector Pension remedy closed on the 11 October. This note is intended to outline next steps for delivery of the remedy.

The Treasury are currently considering consultation responses and expect to publish their response to the consultation in the new year. This will outline the policy intent of the remedy, including whether immediate or deferred choice will be adopted.

Changes to both primary and secondary legislation will be required to remove the discrimination. The Home Office will need to work with the Treasury to understand the policy and proposed legislation and to draft regulations to make the changes required for the Fire schemes.

In order to deliver the remedy to the timeline set out by the Treasury, the Home Office and the LGA Bluelight pensions team are committed to ensuring that you are fully up to speed with all policy and regulation developments so that work can progress at pace. It will be essential that Fire and Rescue Authorities start the process of considering what technology/administration processes will be required to implement the remedy, including what data should be retained, at the earliest opportunity and we will be engaging with you further to understand your dependencies and any challenges you will face."

FPS bulletin 39 - November 2020 was published yesterday. 

The November bulletin contains updates on medical appeal boards, the end of protected pension age easement, and COVID-19 in relation to the Firefighters’ Compensation Scheme. The Government Actuary’s Department (GAD) has provided a number of updated factors and guidance notes to be aware of.

FRAs should note that the 2020-21 statutory levy collection process has now started. Full details are available in the bulletin.

FPS bulletin 38 - October 2020 has been published today.

The October bulletin contains an update on the expected second options exercise for FPS 2006 special members and articles on some of the recent queries we have received.

In wider news, we confirm that legislation on restricting exit payments comes into force on 4 November, and the government are consulting on GMP indexation.

FPS bulletin 37 - September 2020 has been published today.

The bulletin contains updates on the Home Office immediate detriment guidance and a summary of our first virtual AGM.

FPS bulletin 36 - August 2020 has been published today.

We are delighted to introduce the new chair of the Scheme Advisory Board this month, and there are a number of updates relating to the HMT consultation on remedy, COVID-19, and scheme valuation.

Finally, booking is now open for our popular fire pensions annual conference. Find more information and booking links on our Events page.

We are delighted to confirm that the new Chair of the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme Advisory Board (SAB) of England has been appointed.

Joanne Livingstone begins her four year appointment as Chair today.

Joanne has extensive experience relating to pensions across the public and private sectors. She is an Adviser to the Judicial Pensions Committee, she also serves as the Chair of Trustees for the Liberty Europe Pension Scheme and is a Practitioner member of the Actuarial Council among other roles.

Please visit the SAB Board membership webpage for more information.

FPS bulletin 35 - July 2020 has been published today.

Of note this month is the publication of HMT's consultation on remedying age discrimination within the unfunded public service pension schemes. There are a number of other government updates relating to pensions, including their response on the £95k exit cap consultation and a call for evidence in relation to pensions tax relief administration.

Also a reminder that our own consultation on the draft FPS administration strategy is open until the end of August.

The government has now published its response to the consultation on restricting exit payments in the public sector, often referred to as the £95k cap. A reminder of what the cap means for the Firefighters' Pension Schemes (FPS) is available in our technical note.

The SAB response to the consultation welcomed the exemptions applied for the Firefighters' schemes but noted that in some limited circumstances of authority initiated early retirement, the cap would still apply and that changes to the FPS and related statutory GAD guidance would be necessary in order to comply with the cap. We will take this forward with the Home Office.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury has made written statement HCWS397 on public service pensions: survivor benefits for opposite–sex widowers and surviving male civil partners. The statement was in relation to a Teachers' Pension Scheme Employment Tribunal case where "male survivors of female scheme members remain entitled to a lower survivor benefit than a comparable same-sex survivor" and confirmed that "government believes that this difference in treatment will also need to be remedied in those other public service pension schemes, where the husband or male civil partner of a female scheme member is in similar circumstances".

We can confirm that the FPS will not need to be remedied, as the regulations across the schemes already equalise survivor benefits, and there is no distinction on the sex of the member that results in lower survivor benefits for a male survivor of a female scheme member.

HM Treasury (HMT) has published a consultation on proposals to bring the unfunded public service pension schemes in line with the result of the McCloud/Sargeant case by removing the age discrimination resulting from the limitations of the protections to older members, together with an update on the employer cost cap process. These were accompanied by a statement from the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

The consultation relates to members of the unfunded Public Service Schemes including Fire, Teachers and Police. A separate consultation on proposals for remedying the age discrimination within the Local Government Pension Scheme will follow shortly from MHCLG.

We will be issuing further commentary on the consultation once we have had an opportunity to review, however the major proposals by HMT are that:

  • Protections will be extended to cover all unfunded scheme members who were in active scheme membership on 31st March 2012 and have membership in the reformed schemes (without a 5 year break) regardless of whether they have made a claim to a tribunal on this matter
  • Protection will take the form of the right to membership of the relevant unfunded final salary scheme during the protected period which runs from 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2022
  • Protection will be backdated for qualifying members even if they have left the scheme since the start of the protected period
  • Accrual in all unfunded final salary schemes for existing and new protected members will cease at the end of the protected period 31 March 2022
  • Protected members will be given the opportunity to elect for benefits accrued during the protected period to be calculated on a CARE basis as an alternative to protected final salary benefits
  • There are two proposals for when the election is to be made – immediate (soon after the proposals are in force) or deferred (when the member takes their benefits)

For ease, we have collated the consultation questions into a separate document. A more detailed review of the proposals contained within the consultation will follow soon and all information can be found on our new webpage Age Discrimination Remedy (Sargeant), under the ‘Legal Landscape’ tab.

The employer cost cap process, applicable to all public service pension schemes including the FPS is currently paused but will now be restarted. We understand the Treasury’s objective would be to complete the process by next year, taking into account the cost of the proposals to remedy age discrimination as set out in the consultation.

FPS bulletin 34 - June 2020 has been published today.

The bulletin contains important information about communicating to members ahead of ABS 2020. You can also find details of new web-based resources for FRAs and administrators.

There are a number of actions to note this month, including the survey on the impact of COVID-19 on scheme governance which has been extended to the end of July, and we are pleased to open consultation on a draft FPS administration strategy.

FPS bulletin 33 - May 2020 has been published.

There are a number of actions to note this month, including a survey on the impact of COVID-19 on scheme governance.

Please note that booking is now live for our popular annual Local Pension Board wrap-up training. The first online session will take place on 10 June 2020.

FPS bulletin 32 - April 2020 has been published.

We hope that readers continue to keep safe and well.

This month’s issue contains an important update on Annual Benefit Statements for 2020 and a reminder about submission of accounting data for the top-up grant. FRAs should note the Home Office deadline of 15 May for providing this information.

We have published interim FPS Bulletin 31 to address errors and omissions from previous publications. This includes advance notification of this year's top-up grant forecasting requirements and updated GAD guidance.

Readers are asked to note the IDRP data collection request which has a deadline of 30 April.

Earlier this year the technical group agreed that in order to gain consistency in the issue of Annual Benefit Statements (ABS) for 2020 a central direction from the Scheme Advisory Board would be required. A paper was provided to the Board who duly considered this issue and agreed that ABS should be provided based on projections to normal retirement age (accepting that those projections will be based on current FPS 2015 rules), on the proviso that the Board would work with the communications group to provide standard documentation for members explaining the reason for this decision.

However, we have this week (commencing 30 March 2020) been informed that the central PSPS steering group of policy leads from all the main public service pension schemes, which the Home Office attend, have agreed that a central approach will need to be taken by all public service pension schemes on this matter and that individual schemes should not be taking their own approach.

We appreciate that work will have already started on the provision of ABS and we are working to update the annual benefit statement template. We will work with the Home Office on this and provide updates as soon as we are able.

FPS bulletin 30 - March 2020 has been published.

We hope this bulletin finds you safe and well.

This month’s issue contains articles on transitional protections remedy and FPS contribution rates for 2020-21, plus our usual updates. We also bid a fond farewell to Malcolm Eastwood, chair of the FPS England Scheme Advisory Board.

Readers are asked to note the COVID-19 online survey and IDRP data collection request.

Yesterday the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, John Glen, made written statement - HCWS187 regarding progress toward remedy in public service pension schemes following the McCloud/Sargeant age discrimination case. The statement confirms that no qualifying scheme member will need to make a claim for the remedy to apply to them.

FPS bulletin 29 - February 2020 has been published.

The bulletin contains updates on transitional protections remedy and NIC refund claims for FPS 2006 special members.

Other news includes Public Service Pension indexation and revaluation rates to apply from April.

Readers are asked to note the request for data on immediate member events in relation to remedy. The deadline for responses has been extended to 16 March.

FPS bulletin 28 - January 2020 has been published.

The bulletin contains a detailed update on the transitional protections remedy including a request for data on immediate events, and a request for assistance with the national member website project.

The vacancy for the next Chair of the Firefighters’ Pensions (England) Scheme Advisory Board is also advertised, with a closing date of 16 February 2020.

FPS bulletin 27 - December 2019 has been published.

The bulletin contains an important update on the transitional protections remedy (Sargeant) including wording for FRAs to respond to member queries and a Home Office factsheet on the background to the case, which also covers some frequently asked questions.

We are also pleased to include Malcolm Eastwood’s final end of year message as chair of the SAB as his tenure comes to an end in March.

Thank you for the support you have shown the team during 2019. We look forward to working with you all in 2020 and wish all of our readers a happy new year!