Barnet local authority scheme improves after TPR warning

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has claimed that the London Borough of Barnet Superannuation Fund is now being run more effectively after it was forced to issue the local authority pension scheme with an improvement notice earlier this year.

TPR stepped in to take control of the fund after it experienced a catalogue of errors, including £1.7m of late contributions and a lack of clarity over its member data.

Action was first taken against the scheme in 2017, when TPR fined it £1,000 for failing to submit a scheme return.

The fine was the first one ever issued for a public service pension scheme and led to TPR taking a closer interest in how it was being run.

As well as a lack of oversight covering member data quality and the payment of contributions, TPR uncovered delays in providing information to members, some of which it suspects may have been incorrect; a lack of consistent oversight in the senior leadership team in charge of pensions; and a general culture of failing governance.

The scheme manager gave assurances that they were looking to improve the governance of the fund, but TPR was concerned about the pace of change and sent the manager a warning notice in May of this year.

Further concerns then led to the issuing of the improvement notice in July.

The notice required the scheme to implement monthly monitoring of contributions, complete two initial phases of a data cleansing plan and provide accurate annual members benefit statements for 2018/19.

TPR has published a regulatory intervention report outlining how it has worked with the manager to improve governance and administration standards, which it says has led to significant improvements.

It says that the Barnet scheme was relying too heavily on third party service providers, who were left to operate with limited oversight from the manager.

TPR’s first intervention saw this situation change, with the manager now receiving more detailed reports from the providers and being given the ability to challenge the information given within those reports.

Although the scheme has not been able to fully cleanse all the data by a self-imposed deadline of 31 August, it has also shown TPR major improvements in how its data is stored and maintained.

TPR’s director of supervision, Mike Birch, said: “As a result of our work with the scheme manager the fund’s more than 27,000 members can be more confident that the scheme is being properly managed.

“Since we started engaging with the scheme manager with have seen a significant improvement in administration of the fund. Originally it was apparent there was insufficient oversight of the work being done by third-party service providers.

"Whilst pension schemes can delegate work to third parties, they remain responsible for their scheme.”

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