Lord Hutton's Review of Public Service Pensions: Final Report
NASUWT Commentary on the Independent Public Service Pensions Commission Final Report Recommendations
Recommendation 1: The Government should make clear its assessment of the role of public service pension schemes. Based on its framework of principles, the Commission believes that the primary purpose is to ensure adequate levels of retirement income for public service pensioners.
Recommendation 2: Pensions will continue to be an important element of remuneration. The Commission recommends that public service employers take greater account of public service pensions when constructing remuneration packages and designing workforce strategies. The Government should make clear in its remits for pay review bodies that they should consider how public service pensions affect total reward when making pay recommendations.
Although the Commission believes public sector pensions are not ‘gold plated’ and that their primary purpose is to ensure adequate levels of retirement income for public service pensioners, recommendations 1 and 2 open up the real possibility that Government may proceed on the basis that public sector salaries should be adjusted to take account of the pension benefits.
Recommendation 3: The Government should ensure that public service schemes, along with a full state pension, deliver at least adequate levels of income (as defined by the Turner Commission benchmark replacement rates) for scheme members who work full careers in public service. Employers should seek to maximise participation in the schemes where this is appropriate. Adequate incomes and good participation rates are particularly important below median income levels.
The NASUWT welcomes the Commission’s recognition that public sector schemes and the state pension should deliver adequate levels of income for a full career.
Recommendation 4: The Government must honour in full the pension promises that have been accrued by scheme members: their accrued rights. In doing so, the Commission recommends maintaining the final salary link for past service for current members.
The NASUWT welcomes the protection of accrued benefits.
Recommendation 5: As soon as practical, members of the current defined benefit public service pension schemes should be moved to the new schemes for future service, but the Government should continue to provide a form of defined benefit pension as the core design.
The Union deplores the recommendations for changes that will affect existing members of the schemes and their projected benefits for future service. This will do little to build the trust and confidence in the system which the Commission purports to achieve.
Recommendation 6: All public service pension schemes should regularly publish data which, as far as possible, is produced to common standards and methodologies and is then collated centrally. This information should be of a quality that allows simple comparisons to be made across Government, between schemes and between individual Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) Funds.
The Union accepts the need for full transparency of public sector pensions data produced to common standards and methodologies agreed centrally with the member representatives.
Recommendation 7: A new career average revalued earnings (CARE) scheme should be adopted for general use in the public service schemes.
A move to CARE schemes will result in winners and losers. The extent to which members gain or lose benefits will depend on the detail of such schemes but the Union is opposed to any change that will worsen the scheme benefits and believes any change to CARE could only be contemplated on the basis that there was no overall diminution in scheme benefits.
Recommendation 8: [CARE] Pension benefits should be uprated in line with average earnings during the accrual phase for active scheme members.
The uprating of any previous years’ earnings under a CARE scheme in line with average earnings is preferable to increases that only match the rise in inflation. It helps to ensure that benefit accrual in early years is broadly linked to earnings increases and therefore better relates to a member’s level of earnings at retirement.
Recommendation 9: A single benefit design should apply across the whole income range. The differing characteristics of higher and lower earners should be addressed through tiered contribution rates. The Government should consider the trade off between affordability and the impact of opt outs on adequacy when setting member contribution levels.
Higher contributions for higher earners are a feature of some public sector schemes. Any increases in contributions may have an effect on the number of teachers opting out of the scheme.
Recommendation 10: Members should have greater choice over when to start drawing their pension benefits, so they can choose to retire earlier or later than their Normal Pension Age and their pension would be adjusted accordingly on an actuarially fair basis. Flexible retirement should be encouraged and abatement of pensions in its current form for those who return to work after drawing their pensions should be eliminated. In addition, caps on pension accrual should be removed or significantly lifted.
Options for early and phased retirement are already a feature of the teachers’ pension schemes.
Recommendation 11: The Government should increase the member’s Normal Pension Age in the new schemes so that it is in line with their State Pension Age. The link between the State Pension Age and Normal Pension Age should be regularly reviewed, to make sure it is still appropriate, with a preference for keeping the two pension ages linked.
Most NASUWT members will not welcome any requirement to work longer than they had planned. The normal pension age is already 65 for post 2007 entrants. If the new schemes are implemented, this will increase the normal pension age for any future pension accrual for all existing pre-2007 male entrants to age 65, and subsequently to age 66, in line with their state pension age. Pre-2007 female entrants born after 6 April 1950 will gradually progress to normal pension age 65 (and subsequently 66) in line with their state pension age, introducing a differential treatment of men and women within the teachers' pension schemes which does not exist at present.
Recommendation 12: The Government, on behalf of the taxpayer, should set out a fixed cost ceiling: the proportion of pensionable pay that they will contribute, on average, to employees’ pensions over the long term. If this is exceeded then there should be a consultation process to bring costs back within the ceiling, with an automatic default change if agreement cannot be reached.
This reflects the ‘cap and share’ cost sharing arrangements already agreed under previous public sector pension reforms and could result in additional costs falling on employees or a further reduction in benefits.
Recommendation 13: The Commission is not proposing a single public service pension scheme, but over time public service pensions should move towards a common framework for scheme design as set out in this report. However, in some cases, for example, the uniformed services, there may need to be limited adaptations to this framework.
Any arbitrary transition towards convergence of the many different public sector schemes will inevitably compromise some members’ benefits and introduce unnecessary complexity into existing pension provisions.
Recommendation 14: The key design features contained in this report should apply to all public service pension schemes. The exception is in the case of the uniformed services where the Normal Pension Age should be set to reflect the unique characteristics of the work involved. The Government should therefore consider setting a new Normal Pension Age of 60 across the uniformed services, where the Normal Pension Age is currently below this level in these schemes, and keep this under regular review.
Recommendation 15: The common design features laid out in this report should also apply to the LGPS. However, it remains appropriate for the Government to maintain the, different financing arrangements for the LGPS in future, so the LGPS remains funded and the other major schemes remain unfunded.
Recommendation 16: It is in principle undesirable for future non-public service workers to have access to public service pension schemes, given the increased long-term risk this places on the Government and taxpayers.
The issues concerning access to public service pension schemes are complex and wide-ranging. The NASUWT is concerned that this principle could even extend to teachers employed in independent schools.
Recommendation 17: Every public service pension scheme (and individual LGPS Fund) should have a properly constituted, trained and competent Pension Board, with member nominees, responsible for meeting good standards of governance including effective and efficient administration. There should also be a pension policy group for each scheme at national level for considering major changes to scheme rules.
These proposals should include provision for trade union nominees in the governance of all public sector pension schemes.
Recommendation 18: All public service pension schemes should issue regular benefit statements to active scheme members, at least annually and without being requested and promote the use of information technology for providing information to members and employers.
Recommendation 19: Governance and the availability and transparency of information would be improved by government establishing a framework that ensures independent oversight of the governance, administration and data transparency of public service pension schemes. Government should consider which body or bodies, including, for example, The Pensions Regulator, is most suitable to undertake this role.
Recommendation 20: When assessing the long term sustainability of the public finances, the Office for Budget Responsibility should provide a regular published analysis of the long term fiscal impact of the main public service pension schemes (including the funded LGPS).
The NASUWT is not convinced of the independence of the Office for Budget Responsibility.
Recommendation 21: Centrally collated comprehensive data, covering all LGPS Funds, should be published including Fund comparisons, which, for example, clarify and compare key assumptions about investment growth and differences in deficit recovery plans.
Recommendation 22: Government should set what good standards of administration should consist of in the public service pension schemes based on independent expert advice. The Pensions Regulator might have a role, building on its objective to promote good administration. A benchmarking exercise should then be conducted across all the schemes to assist in the raising of standards where appropriate.
Recommendation 23: Central and local government should closely monitor the benefits associated with the current co-operative projects within the LGPS, with a view to encouraging the extension of this approach, if appropriate, across all local authorities. Government should also examine closely the potential for the unfunded public service schemes to realise greater efficiencies in the administration of pensions by sharing contracts and combining support services, including considering outsourcing.
Recommendation 24: The Government should introduce primary legislation to adopt a new common UK legal framework for public service schemes.
The Commission believes this would provide greater transparency, simplicity and certainty that the reforms would satisfy common basic principles.
Recommendation 25: The consultation process itself should be centrally co-ordinated: to set the cost ceilings and timetables for consultation and overall implementation. However, the consultation on details should be conducted scheme by scheme involving employees and their representatives.
Any changes to existing provision should be the subject of a centrally negotiated set of overarching principles with the details determined on a scheme by scheme basis and only introduced after full consultation and agreement with national trade unions.
Recommendation 26: The Commission’s view is that even allowing for the necessary processes it should be possible to introduce the new schemes before the end of this Parliament and we would encourage the Government to aim for implementation within this timeframe.
To complete major changes of such complexity and with such significant implications by 2015 (the possible life of the current Parliament) sets an unnecessary and unrealistic timetable in respect of such long-term commitments with consequences spanning decades or more.
Recommendation 27: Best practice governance arrangements should be followed for both business as usual and the transformation process, for each scheme. And there will also need to be the right resource, on top of business as usual, to drive the reforms; particularly given the challenging timescale and scope of the reforms.