30 October 2019

FPS bulletin 25 - October 2019 has been published.

We have issued a number of useful resources this month, including a factsheet on TPR’s six key processes and updated informal guidance on data scoring ahead of the 2019 scheme return. The eligibility to join factsheet has been updated, and a version for Wales added.

Items of interest to finance colleagues include guidance on forecasting for the top-up grant and information about the Fire Finance Network.

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30 October 2019

FPS bulletin 25 - October 2019 has been published.

We have issued a number of useful resources this month, including a factsheet on TPR’s six key processes and updated informal guidance on data scoring ahead of the 2019 scheme return. The eligibility to join factsheet has been updated, and a version for Wales added.

Items of interest to finance colleagues include guidance on forecasting for the top-up grant and information about the Fire Finance Network.

For feedback or suggestions for content, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

30 September 2019

FPS bulletin 24 - September 2019 has been published.

There are a number of important updates in this month’s edition, including confirmation of the new contractor to provide the Board of Medical Referees (BMR) to consider medical appeals and a reminder to provide up to date contact details for HMRC.

We have also published a research report into our training provision, which will be used to inform our training plan for 2020. Watch this space!

2 September 2019

FPS Bulletin 23 - August 2019 has been published.

This month we are delighted to release the final report in the review of scheme administration costs and effectiveness. The report, commissioned by the SAB, has been prepared by Aon and you can read the full findings here Appendix 1. Firefighters Admin Benchmark report - Final - Issued. We would like to thank all those who participated in the surveys and publicised the member questionnaire.

There are a number of other important updates in the August edition, including an update on data that was excluded by GAD for the purposes of setting the 2016 valuation assumptions and a timely reminder about the recording and reporting of breaches of the law.

31 July 2019

FPS Bulletin 22 - July 2019 has been published. To celebrate the second anniversary of the bulletins, we’re pleased to bring you a very special “take-over” edition, with articles on various topics from pensions tax to cyber-crime, and almost everything in between. Thank you to those organisations and individuals who have contributed.

You will also find our usual updates on FPS and across the wider landscape.

28 June 2019

FPS 2015 transitional protections challenge update

As detailed in FPS Bulletin 20 – May 2019, the outcome of the Government’s application for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court was expected in July. This decision has been made earlier than expected and on 27 June 2019 the Supreme Court has denied the Government’s request for an appeal in the transitional protections case in respect of age discrimination and pension protection.

We are aware that members may have a number of questions around the on-going legal challenge to the transitional provisions of FPS 2015. While we have covered this in-depth for FRAs in previous bulletins , we are preparing a briefing note covering the full background to the case and each stage of the challenge, which can be shared with members. The note will be published as soon as possible.

Until the remedy has been determined by the employment tribunal and any regulations changed as a result, we cannot speculate how future benefits may change. Therefore any retirement projections, Annual Benefit Statements as at 31 March 2019, or pensions advice must be based on the regulations as they currently stand.

31 May 2019

FPS Bulletin 20 - May 2019 has been published. There are a number of important items in this month’s edition, including guidance on pensionable pay which contains actions for FRAs to consider.

We are also seeking your views on the FPS training provision and would be grateful if you could take this short, 10 minute survey https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/FPS_training_survey. The link will stay open for one month until the next bulletin.

30 April 2019

FPS Bulletin 19 - April 2019 has been published. The bulletin contains a number of important updates and some items require action. Articles covering the exit cap consultation and our research report on the 2018 ABS survey may be of particular interest.

Find out about new factsheets we have issued and catch up with all our usual features.

28 February 2019

On 28 February 2019, GAD published the final reports in relation to the 2016 valuation, including the scheme specific employer contribution rates that will apply for the implementation period April 2019 to March 2023.

The full suite of reports can be accessed on the new dedicated valuation page of the FPS Regulations and Guidance website www.fpsregs.org.

30 January 2019

On 30 January 2019, HM Treasury issued a written ministerial statement with regards to the effect of the recent judgments on the McCloud and Sargeant cases on the valuation.

As a result of this announcement, the cost cap rectification process for the Firefighter Pension Scheme will be suspended, pending the outcome to the Government’s appeal.

HM Treasury has also advised that the employer rate that Fire and Rescue Authorities pay towards firefighter pensions should be increased as of 1 April 2019. Following this announcement GAD are able to calculate the individual employer contribution rate for the four firefighter schemes which we will confirm these rates as soon as possible.

There will be no changes to firefighter pension schemes member’s contribution rate or the accrual rate at this stage. There will also be no change to the member contribution banding rates, therefore administrators should continue to use the bands that came into effect April 2018.

21 January 2019

The Scheme Advisory Board in partnership with Aon has launched the member survey for the FPS benchmarking exercise with a deadline of 28 February 2019. More information about the project can be found here.

We are interested to hear from all member stakeholders, whether they be active, deferred, pensioners or dependents. The survey can be completed at the following link http://bit.ly/FPS-Memb-Survey and should take around 5 minutes to complete. All responses are anonymous.

The data will be collected by Aon to feed into a report to benchmark the standard of service across the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme in England.

11 January 2019

Further to the letter issued by the Home Office on 31 October regarding the review of scheme factors due to the change to the SCAPE discount rate, GAD has provided replacement factor tables to update the Added Years/Added Pension and CPD factors for the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme (England) with immediate effect.

These factors replace those currently in use.

CETV and certain other calculations should have been suspended on 31 October 2018. Such calculations can now recommence using the new factors, including on any stockpiled cases. For all other types of calculation, including early retirement, FRAs should follow the usual practice of changing their methods of calculation from the time when new factors are circulated.

21 December 2018

FPS Bulletin 15 - December 2018 has been published. The bulletin contains important information on the recent judgement by the Court of Appeal in the FPS 2015 transitional protections case, including a sample response to member enquiries. The issue contains updates on both the valuation and FPS benchmarking exercise, in addition to our usual features.

Malcolm Eastwood, chair of the Scheme Advisory Board, has penned an end of year message to all, with a request for information to support the Board in presenting a case to the Home Office on how schemes might be better managed to give choice and flexibility to members in relation to pensions tax.

Thank you for the support you have shown the team during the year. We look forward to working with you all in 2019.

A seasonal message from the chair

Dear friends & colleagues,

If you're reading this, 'Congratulations!', you have virtually made it to the end of another busy year working in and supporting the Fire Pensions domain; only a few more days and you can officially relax, chill and hopefully enjoy your Festive celebrations with family and friends.

It has undoubtedly been a busy year…

Read more from Malcolm Eastwood here, with a summary of the year that has passed and a look the challenges ahead in 2019.

18 December 2018

On 18 December 2018 the Home Office launched a consultation on changes to survivor benefits in the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme 1992 and the Firefighters’ Compensation Scheme 2006, plus a minor unrelated correction to the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme 1992.

In the event of a member’s death, the firefighters’ pension schemes provide for the payment of certain benefits and awards to a member’s spouse or partner (‘survivors’ benefits’), but as regards qualification for benefit, there are different regulations according to which particular pension scheme the member belonged.

A recent Supreme Court case relating to the entitlements of a pension scheme member’s partner has led the Government to give fresh consideration to this matter for all public service pension schemes, including those for firefighters.

The consultation seeks the views of interested parties on draft legislation to enact these changes. The closing date is 29 January 2019.

6 December 2018

Further to the letter issued by the Home Office on 31 October regarding the review of scheme factors due to the change to the SCAPE discount rate, GAD has provided the following replacement factor tables for use with immediate effect.

Early and Late retirement. Please note that there are different late retirement factors for mainstream pension and added pension.

CETV and Pensioner Cash Equivalent (for divorce purposes).

CETV and certain other calculations should have been suspended on 31 October 2018. Such calculations can now recommence using the new factors, including on any stockpiled cases. For all other types of calculation, including early retirement, FRAs should follow the usual practice of changing their methods of calculation from the time when new factors are circulated.

30 November 2018

FPS Bulletin 14 - November 2018 has been published. This issue includes updates and reminders on a number of on-going projects, including the valuation and FPS benchmarking exercise. As well as our usual articles, you can also find out about new resources that have been added to this site.

23 November 2018

Following an extended period of stakeholder engagement, the administrator and employer surveys relating to the FPS benchmarking exercise have been issued for completion with a deadline of 31 December 2018.

Aon have been commissioned to undertake the review by the Scheme Advisory Board (SAB), to help them establish a measure of the cost and effectiveness of administration within the schemes. More information about the project can be found here.

The surveys were sent by email to our main contacts at administrators and FRAs. If you were expecting to receive a copy and have not, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

31 October 2018

FPS Bulletin 13 - October 2018 has been published, with important updates on the valuation and Budget 2018. The issue also contains information regarding TPR and TPO engagement, plus other informative articles and our regular features.

We would draw particular attention to the letter regarding the review of scheme factors which has been issued by the Home Office on 31 October 2018.

The factors for commutation on retirement from FPS 1992 have now been reviewed by GAD and are available at the following link:

http://fpsregs.org/index.php/gad-guidance/commutation

The factors are effective immediately.

Note that as per paragraph 34 of the government response to the consultation on special members of FPS 2006, those commutation factors are fixed and will not be subject to future review.

19 September 2018

We were delighted to welcome over 150 delegates from the fire pensions community to 18 Smith Square for our annual conference held on 17 and 18 September 2018. Attendees heard from a wide variety of industry professionals and government representatives across the two days. A detailed summary of the event including the full presentations from both days can be found here.

To view the conference in pictures, visit our @LGAWorkforce twitter feed, #LGAfirepensions

14 September 2018

The Police and Firefighters’ Pension (Amendment) Regulation 2018 SI 2018/997 was laid on 13 September 2018. The government response to the consultation can be found here.

A technical note has been published to confirm the details of the amendment order as it relates to the Firefighters Pension Scheme and any actions that should now be taken. Consolidated versions of all regulations amended by this order can be found here.

13 September 2018

On 6 September 2018, Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT) published their draft Directions for the 2016 valuation for comment.

For the Firefighters' Pension Schemes in England this means :-

  • The firefighters'scheme in England is likely to breach the cost cap floor (i.e. costs are likely to be more than 2% lower than the 16.8% of pensionable earnings cost cap set out in the 2015 firefighter scheme regulations). Under paragraph 3 of rule 150A of the scheme rules the Home Office must consult with the Scheme Advisory Board (SAB) on the action to be taken to bring the cost back within the target cost. If no agreement can be reached, the default mechanism is to amend the rate at which benefits accrue.

The SAB is well placed to engage in this consultation. The Board's cost effectiveness committee constructed from stakeholders across the sector and supported by the Board's independent actuarial advisor will be meeting with Home Office and GAD to discuss the initial outcomes.

For clarity the cost cap mechanism is a measure of costs for the reformed schemes only, i.e. the 2015 scheme. Therefore the steps taken to improve benefits will be for members in employment in the 2015 scheme between April 2019 and March 2023. It will not affect deferred or pensioner members, or protected members of the 1992 or 2006 schemes.

  • There will be a significant increase in employer contribution rates from their current levels. This is mainly due to the proposed further reduction in the SCAPE discount rate, from 2.8% to 2.4%. This further reduction, if confirmed, is expected to apply from 1 April 2019.

As yet we do not know what the ‘significant’ increase is set to be; we expect to be clearer on this in the coming weeks.

This technical bulletin produced by GAD contains the links to all the relevant documents.

Board consultations and responses will be published here once they are available, and monthly updates will be provided in the bulletins.

Summer is here....

Dear Colleagues & Associates,

Summer is here... and I offer you a very warm welcome to our Scheme Advisory Board website.

We are now well into 2018 and we hit the ground running with the last notes of Auld Lang Syne still ringing in our ears.

2018 started with the successful Tax Awareness seminars we ran across the country; grateful thanks to Annemarie Allen of Barnett Waddingham who ran them for us; we have listened to the feedback from those who attended the sessions and it is our intention to run a number of follow up, technically based seminars specifically for our pensions practitioners who have responsibility for taxation - watch this website space... http://www.fpsboard.org/

The Board’s three Sub Groups continue their work to improve the way we manage Fire Pensions overall and support the 44 Local Pension Boards (LPBs) we assist.

Our Cost Effectiveness sub group continue their work on the valuation exercise along with the benchmarking of administration costs - no small task!

The Local Pension Board sub group works towards improving the effectiveness of LPBs along with the development of LPB Members and pension practitioner colleagues responsible for managing the Boards out in the Fire Authorities.

The group carried out a survey of LPBs the results of which can be accessed on this website under, "Board Publications - Board surveys"; if you haven't read it yet, I would recommend it to you - and also thank those of you who competed the survey for us.

The sub group is also analysing the outcomes of last year’s TPR survey on Governance and will, later in the year, be making recommendations to the SAB as to the structure, work and responsibilities of LPBs.

Our Administration & Benchmarking sub group is currently working on the benchmarking of administration standards across FRAs, paying particular attention to 'championing' on-line solutions and improvements from the software suppliers and especially in respect of Member Self Service options which we would like every FRA to work towards.

As you will note, there is a synergy between each of our sub groups.

As part of meeting the Scheme Advisory Board’s work plan, I am delighted to inform you that the board has recently appointed Weightmans as legal adviser to the board, and are seeking to make two further appointments, one as an actuarial adviser to the board and the second to undertake a review of administration and management costs for the Firefighter Pension Schemes.

Further instructions are on the board website - http://www.fpsboard.org/index.php/board-publications/invitation-to-bid and the bid process will run until 15 June 2018.

Claire Hey has pulled out all the stops and added a new website to the FPS portfolio. The www.fpsregs.org website was launched in February to rave reviews and is proving to be a very successful resource which many pension practitioner colleagues are frequently accessing.

In addition, Claire has also added further resources to this our original board website under 'Local Pension Boards', where you will find 'Resources’ and ‘Training' in the drop down menu, well worth a read as you will see confirmation that each LPB is entitled to a free annual training session funded through the statutory levy each FRA pays.

Under 'Resources', you will see a list of resources that have been developed to facilitate the effective running of LPBs; a great basis for planning the training requirements for your LPB Members - (Hint!)... Remember, if you have a query or question, a good trawl through the relevant Board Website may well provide you with the answer you are looking for - give it a try...

2018 dawned as the 'Chinese Year Of The Dog', in the world of Pensions it dawned as ' The Year Of Data', GDPR is here and TPR in particular are extremely keen to ensure we all have our data checked and correct, and in their words, they will be carrying out, "deep dives", on LPBs and the pension schemes they are responsible for.....a good time therefore to ensure your data is as it should be...

Besides the Tax Awareness seminars we ran, the SAB has also run a seminar on GDPR, a practitioners training session on Special Members of FPS 2006 and a joint Fire & Police governance event, all of which have been well attended and appreciated.

Keep your eye on this website for future events, we recently advertised the forthcoming LPB ‘wrap up’ training session for LPB members and practitioners which will take place on 19 June.

We also have our Annual Conference which will take place at the LGA offices, Smith Square, London over 17 and 18 September - one to watch out for...!

As always, we owe so much to Clair Alcock and Claire Hey who do so much to ensure Fire Pensions are well serviced by the Scheme Advisory Board and our sub groups; most of the initiatives, seminars and training events are due in no small way to the enthusiasm and foresight of 'the Clair(e)s’. At this stage I should also thank Helen Scargill, Chair of the Technical committee, who in that capacity sits as Technical advisor to the SAB.

We also maintain high levels of contact with our Home Office Fire Pensions colleagues, our contact from GAD, our various TPR contacts along with The Pensions Ombudsman and The Pensions Advisory Service, who are now combining forces and working under the same roof in their new offices in Canary Wharf.

We continue to attend various external seminars, workshops, conferences and pension related events to ensure we keep Fire Pensions ahead of the curve where possible and I believe we have been able to influence the way the Government’s 'Dashboard' initiative will be rolled out, which hopefully will ensure we receive all the benefits such a system can offer without having to carry out the same level of data input and expense private sector schemes are likely to face.

Sincere Best Wishes and 'Thank You' for accessing this website...

Malcolm

Malcolm Eastwood, CBE, CStJ, QFSM, FIFireE

Chairman, English Firefighters' Pension Scheme Advisory Board.

INTO 2018 AND BEYOND....

Dear Colleagues and Associates,

INTO 2018 AND BEYOND....

Firstly, can I wish you all a "Happy New Year"...I hope you had a very enjoyable Festive Break and were able to re-charge your batteries ready for all 2018 will undoubtedly bring.

We on the Scheme Advisory Board have an ambitious workload ahead of us for 2018 which you will be pleased to know includes a review of issues surrounding Pensionable Pay....

We will also be holding our Annual Conference over the 17th & 18th of September, details of which will be published on our Events page, once our conference arrangements are finalised.

Our three SAB Sub Groups will continue their work with regards to Cost-Effectiveness, Administration & Benchmarking and Local Pension Board Effectiveness to provide efficiency, advice, guidance & support; I am hopeful that each of these Groups will deliver tangible outcomes to the benefit of all our Fire Pensions stakeholders, and in particular our 'Fire Pensions Family' working out in the FRA's.

A Challenge...! Those of you who attended last year’s Annual Conference will remember Peter Spreadbury from the Home Office issuing a challenge to those of us working in the Fire Pensions domain which was:-

"How can we, the Fire Pensions Community, take forward the 'Pensions Agenda', improve and innovate the way we manage, administer and deliver fire pensions within the constraints FRA's, etc currently have due to restricted resources, time, expertise, constraints of government legislation and time, etc.".

The above 'challenge' is one we should be looking closely at given the objectives I and my SAB colleagues were set on our appointments. I would therefore welcome any thoughts, views and suggestions you may have, either individually, or as part of any Fire Pensions group or board you serve on. Answers on a metaphorical postcard please to the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

As I hope you will deduce, I am extremely keen to ensure the Firefighters' Pension Schemes run smoothly, efficiently and that those of you who work in this important domain receive every support, guidance and assistance we can give you, which will in turn benefit scheme members, FRA's, HM Government and ultimately the Taxpayer.

To this end, I am very fortunate to have the backing and support of my fellow Scheme Advisory Board members and we are greatly assisted by Clair Alcock and Claire Hey from the LGA Fire Pensions support team who between them provide professional, technical and administrative support across the Fire Pensions domain, including providing annual training to FRA's and liaison with The Pensions Regulator, The Pensions Ombudsman, Home Office, HM Revenue & Customs, the National Fire Chiefs Council and other such related bodies.

I look forward to meeting as many of you working on Fire Pensions as I can over the coming year and I close by thanking you on behalf of all scheme members, of which I am one myself, for all you do on our behalf.

Sincere Best Wishes,

Malcolm

Malcolm Eastwood, CBE, CStJ, QFSM, FIFireE

Chairman, English Firefighters' Pension Scheme Advisory Board.

 

The Pensions Regulator Annual Governance & Administration Survey

Dear Colleagues,

REMINDER - THE PENSIONS REGULATOR ANNUAL GOVERNANCE & ADMINISTRATION SURVEY 2017

Please be advised that The Pensions Regulator, TPR, sent out their Annual Governance & Administration Survey to Scheme Managers on 8 November 2017. I would encourage you to ensure the survey is completed in full and returned to them, as requested, by 1 December 2017.

TPR have asked for FRAs to identify themselves in the survey. Although this is not mandatory, it would help both TPR and the Scheme Advisory Board if you could do this as we can then incorporate any training or administration requirements later identified as necessary across our Fire Pensions family.

I’m conscious that some FRAs may not be aware the survey had been sent out, so would ask you to ensure that you have received it and are taking the necessary actions to have it completed and returned by the due date.

When I met with TPR last week, they stressed we shouldn't be “typically English” by being modest on our scoring / answers; I would therefore ask you to be totally up front and honest in your responses.

Last year, Fire had a 98% response return rate of the survey across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. I would like with your assistance to achieve a full 100% return this year.

Thank you in anticipation for your assistance.

Kindest regards,

Malcolm

Malcolm Eastwood, CBE, CStJ, QFSM, FIFireE

Chairman, English Firefighters' Pension Scheme Advisory Board.

You found us....!!!

A very warm welcome to this, The Firefighters' Pensions (England) Scheme Advisory Board website.

Malcolm Eastwood

I hope you will find the information and links contained within this, our foundational website, useful, informative, and interesting.

Keep your eyes on the website as it is our intention to expand it as we on the Scheme Advisory Board, in conjunction with our colleagues in our Fire Pensions Family across England's Fire & Rescue Authorities develop our knowledge, procedures, policies and examples of best practice, which through the medium of this domain specific website can be accessed and shared widely across the Fire Sector and its personnel who have a vested interest in the Firefighters' Pension Schemes.

My colleagues on the Scheme Advisory Board and I would welcome your comments, suggestions for the development of this website, and general feedback via the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Sincere Best Wishes and 'Thank You' for accessing this website...

Malcolm

Malcolm Eastwood, CBE, CStJ, QFSM, FIFireE

Chairman, English Firefighters' Pension Scheme Advisory Board.