Timms asks TPR how Arcadia collapse will affect £385m pension package

Work and Pensions Committee chair, Stephen Timms, has asked The Pensions Regulator (TPR) to outline how Arcadia Group’s collapse will affect a £385m package that had been bound for the company’s pension scheme.

The package, which was agreed upon by TPR, Arcadia and Tina Green in 2019, included a £100m guarantee from Lady Green, annual payments of £25m from the Arcadia Group and additional asset security valued at £210m.

Asking about the £100m guarantee, Timms pointed out that a previous letter from TPR had stated this would be paid “regardless of what happens to Arcadia Group Limited in the future” and asked when this was likely to be paid given that Arcadia was now “unable to make any further deficit reduction contributions to the scheme”.

He also asked whether Arcadia’s deficit reduction contributions had been affected by the guidance introduced for defined benefit (DB) schemes’ funding and investment during the pandemic, and what lessons would be applied from the regulator’s experience with BHS.

Timms also requested more information on what assurances members might receive that the additional assets valued at £210m would be transferred to the scheme.

Furthermore, he requested that the regulator share details on how it planned to help Arcadia pension scheme members avoid falling victim to scammers.

Timms wrote: “During a global pandemic and with many scheme members facing possible job losses, I know that you will agree that the interests of pension scheme members should be front and centre.”

He has previously called on Philip Green and his family, the owners of Arcadia, to plug the firm’s pension deficit, stating that it was a "dreadful time for Arcadia staff to be worrying about their jobs and their pensions".

Timms's predecessor as Work and Pensions Committee chair, Frank Field, had raised concerns that £385m would not be anywhere near enough to eliminate the deficit, commenting in June 2019 that "the deficit in the schemes was between £537m and £727m" when the package had been agreed upon.

Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association head of DB, local government pension schemes and standards, Joe Dabrowski, said: “The most important thing for concerned scheme members to know is that their final salary pensions will be protected by the PPF.

“The pensions lifeboat already looks after more than 300,000 members’ pensions and has the financial strength as well as experience to deal with any claims resulting from the company’s collapse.”

He added that retirees in receipt of their benefits would continue to receive them and others “would get 90 per cent of the expected income, up to a cap of around £40,000 a year”, before calling on regulators to “act urgently to ensure that members are protected and to take the strongest possible action against any unscrupulous companies that may look to take advantage of savers”.

Money and Pensions Service customer advisory manager, Nick Hill, said: “This is clearly a challenging time for all sectors, including retailers and there will now be thousands of Arcadia staff who will understandably be very concerned about their jobs, pensions and overall financial security as a result of this news.

“We would recommend that Arcadia staff check what they’re entitled to from their employer, including redundancy and holiday pay, and to consider that they may need to review their wider financial situation.”

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