What is a Pensions Board and can it exclude the press and public from its meetings?
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Video of the Local Pensions Board (Merseyside Pension Fund) meeting on the 12th October 2015
I attended my first meeting of Wirral Council’s Pensions Board today (although this is the second meeting of the Pensions Board). Wirral Council are the Administering Authority for the Merseyside Pension Fund.
Although the venue was listed as: Merseyside Pension Fund, 7th Floor, Castle Chambers, Liverpool L2 9SH, it was in fact held in a board room on the 4th floor at the same address.
This page on the Merseyside Pension Fund’s website states who make up the Pensions Board.
Mike Hornby (a former Wirral Council councillor for Greasby, Frankby & Irby ward) was there as a member of the the Pensions Board. He is one of the employer representatives representing Wirral Council.
Paul Wiggins (one of the Member (meaning Member of the Merseyside Pension Fund) representatives) was there to represent the pensioner members in the Merseyside Pension Fund. Also there was the Independent Chair John Raisin.
The full list of nine people that make up the Pension Board can be found on the Merseyside Pension Fund website, although not all nine were present for the meeting and I haven’t listed everyone who was at the meeting above.
However what does a Pensions Board actually do? Well it’s a relatively recent legal requirement to have one that only started in April 2015. As Wirral Council administer the Merseyside Pension Fund they’re therefore required to have one. The role of the Pensions Board is to help ensure the Merseyside Pension Fund complies with governance and administration requirements.
The terms of reference state its function as follows.
a. secure compliance with the Regulations, any other legislation relating to the governance and administration of the Scheme and requirements imposed by the Pension Regulator in relation to the Scheme and;
b. ensure the effective and efficient governance and administration of Merseyside Pension Fund.
c. provide the Scheme Manager with such information as it requires ensuring that any member of the Pension Board or person to be appointed to the Board does not have a conflict of interest.
It’s now where we get to a rather strange problem. Agenda item 8 of the meeting, as you can read for yourself on Wirral Council’s website attempts to exclude any members of the press and public present for items 9, 9a and 10 which refers to the Local Government Act 1972, s.100A.
Before the meeting started I would’ve liked a chance to point out verbally to someone what I’m going to write about now, but a Wirral Council officer insisted we wait in the kitchen next door instead, oh well.
There is power to exclude the press and public from a public meeting. It comes from the Local Government Act 1972, s.100A(4) and applies to meeting of a principal council and because of Local Government Act 1972, s.100E also committees and subcommittees (as well as joint committees).
The Pensions Board was never set up as a committee (or subcommittee) of Wirral Council though. In fact its terms of reference for the Pensions Board make that extremely clear.
So let me get this straight, a Pensions Board whose purpose is to “secure compliance with legislation”, assigns itself a power in law to exclude press and public from its meetings that it doesn’t have?
At the meeting itself on the 13th October 2015 the Independent Chair John Raisin proposed this resolution to exclude the press and public, it was seconded and agreed by the Pensions Board.
So who do you complain to about the Pensions Board not complying with the legislation? Why the Pension Board of course as its their role to ensure the Merseyside Pension Fund complies with the legislation!
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