Report of the HR Business Support Manager
The Senior HR Business Partner presented a report which provided an overview of current issues relating to the Firefighters’ Pension Schemes, including updates on the following:-
- Pension Function Resource
- Membership Statistics
- Immediate Detriment
- Public Service Age Discrimination Remedy
- TPRs Single Code of Practice
- 2020-21 Statutory Levy
- Governance and local issues – Internal Audit of Pensions
The Senior HR Business Partner was pleased to report the appointment of both Emily Purslow and Stephen Gall into the roles of Pension Coordinator and Pay and Pensions Lead. The appointments would bolster support and bring stability to the function going forward and the Pay and Pension Lead would be a shared resource and would work across both Cheshire Fire and Cheshire Police. Unfortunately, Steve Gall was not available to attend this meeting however he would be in attendance at future meetings.
The Board were advised that on 1st September 2020, the Pensions Regulator (TPR) confirmed that it intended to launch the formal consultation on a single Code of Practice in late 2020/early 2021. TPR provided 15 codes of practice, covering topics such as early leavers, internal controls and governance and administration of public service pension schemes. The plan was to review and combine the content of the 15 codes to form a single, shorter code.
The Pension Scheme Manager advised that the new Regulations relating to the Public Sector Exit Payments Regulations 2020 took effect on 4 November 2020, capping exit packages for all public sector employees and office holders at £95,000. CFRS potentially had one case as an outcome from the Service Management Team Restructure that was approved by the Fire Authority at its meeting on 9th December 2020. The Pension Scheme Manager was currently working with legal on this and further information would be available in due course. (Minute 7 refers).
The Pension Scheme Manager advised that part of the MIAA Internal Audit Plan for 2020/21, was a review pensions and payroll which took place between September and December 2020. She explained the terms of reference for the Audit which were included in the report and advised that the overall rating from the Pensions Audit was ‘Substantial Assurance’. She also advised that there were no critical or high risks identified within the audit and the executive summary stated that there was “a good system of internal controls to meet the system objectives and that controls were generally being applied consistently”.
In terms of improvements she advised that these were suggested in 3 areas. These areas related to the retention of documentation, updating of policies, and changes to provide more clarity on the leaver’s checklists. The timeline for actioning and completing these recommendations was the end of Quarter 4 2020-21.
A report detailing the audit finding was due to be submitted to the next meeting of the Performance and Overview Committee on 24th February 2021. The audit report would then be submitted to the next meeting of the Local Pension Board for information.
George Peers asked if the Pension Board would have sight of the Payroll audit as there were links relating to pensionable pay. The Pension Scheme Manager confirmed that the payroll and pension audits had been completed separately and that as payroll was outside of the scope of the Pension Board, it was not her intention to share this. It was explained that the Head of HR for the Joint Services was responsible for payroll and would be picking up any actions associated with the payroll audit. The Senior HR Business Partner advised that, as he was involved in both audits and the associated actions, if there was anything on the payroll audit that was specific to pensions, he would ensure that this is raised at a future meeting.
 the update be noted.
 the MIAA Audit Finding Report be submitted to the Performance and Overview Committee on 24th February be noted and the report be submitted to the next meeting of the Local Pension Board on 17th March 2021 for information.
 The Pension Scheme Manager provide an update on the implementation of the MIAA recommendations at the next meeting of the Local Pension Board on 17th March 2021.