19/2021 North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Fire and Rescue Authority: adoption of LGA/FBU Framework on immediate detriment regarding pension remedy

The Acting Commissioner, as Employer and Scheme Manager of the Fire and Rescue Authority’s firefighter pension schemes, has decided to adopt the Framework recently agreed between the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), to offer (on request) Immediate Detriment to qualifying firefighter pension scheme members. This supersedes the Authority’s interim policy statement published on 17 September 2021.

Background

In 2015 most public service pension schemes, including the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme (FPS), were reformed. These reforms included ‘transitional protection’ for people closest to retirement.

In 2018, the Court of Appeal ruled that the transitional protection element of the 2015 public service pension reforms constituted unlawful age discrimination in the Firefighters’ and Judges’ Pension Schemes.

On 17 September 2021, the North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Fire and Rescue Authority (‘the Authority’) implemented an interim policy in line with Home Office Guidance that sought (amongst other matters) to provide members with an active and viable choice of which scheme they would like to be in remedy for the remedy period, defined as between 1 April 2015 and March 2022.

On 8 October 2021, the LGA and FBU issued a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and Framework (appended) setting out a mechanism for handling Immediate Detriment cases, to help ensure a consistent approach to Immediate Detriment across the fire sector and resolve the genuine difficulties that had arisen for fire and rescue authorities in making payments to those affected (including for example issues around unauthorised payment charges and contribution holidays).

The Authority will sign up to the MOU and adopt this Framework with immediate effect based on the recommendation that:

  • the MOU is considered binding on the fire and rescue sector;
  • constructive business dialogue remains underway with the pensions provider in relation to the totality of the MOU;
  • there are no objections in principle to the aims and objectives in the MOU.

Whilst the terms of the MOU were settled without direct involvement of the Authority, there are no known factors before the Acting Commissioner at this time which affect the ability of the Authority to comply with its terms and spirit in full. If, following the completion of detailed professional liaison between the Authority and its pension service providers, there is any requirement for local dialogue with respect to the above (and in particular any appreciable prospect of needing a workable margin of appreciation in relation to any specific provision) then such dialogue will be entered into swiftly and purposefully and to the minimum extent necessary to achieve compliance with the aims and objectives of the MOU.

It is considered necessary to make this Decision (a) during the pre-election period and (b) urgently, notwithstanding the likelihood of a new single elected individual taking office as Commissioner on 26 November 2021. The overarching reason for the priority being afforded to this matter is that the Authority respects the intent of the MOU and Framework and the consensus reached, in order to provide a commonly agreed basis upon which to approach claims for important potential entitlements. In short, there is considered to be overwhelming public interest in offering a defined and certain route to potential claimants. That opportunity may be compromised absent timely adoption of the Framework.

Decision Record

The Acting Commissioner has decided to support the adoption of the Framework to offer Immediate Detriment to eligible Fire and Rescue Authority firefighter employees.

 

Jenni Newberry

Acting Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire

Statutory Officer Advice

Legal, Management and Equality Implications

The Acting Commissioner’s Chief Executive and Monitoring Officer, having read this report and having considered such information as has been provided at the time of being asked to express this view, is satisfied that this report does not ask the Commissioner to make a decision which would (or would be likely to) give rise to a contravention of the law.

Financial and Commercial

The Acting Commissioner’s Chief Finance Officer and S151 Officer has advised that It is not possible at this stage to identify the specific costs associated with cases of Immediate detriment and that these will be identified on a case by case basis. Using the immediate detriment Framework now will not increase any direct amounts payable, it will simply bring some of those costs forward.

In not applying the Framework, further legal action could be taken by the Fire Brigades’ Union and result in further litigation costs.

It is expected that the costs associated with the administration of the remedy will be borne by the North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Fire and Rescue Authority whilst monies owed to members will be met by Government. In some circumstances individuals may also incur additional costs as a result of a change in pension schemes e.g. annual allowance costs.

 

Published on