Report of Director for Corporate Services
The Committee were informed that the origins of the good governance project could be traced back to the Shadow Scheme Advisory Board established in 2012 to assist in the design of the new 2014 scheme. The then Board agreed to consult on proposals to separate the pensions function from administering authorities, to resolve the perceived conflict of interest of elected members acting in the best interest of their local authority, rather than scheme members.
The separation project was put on hold while asset pooling was in its initial stages in 2015. However, in June 2018 the Scheme Advisory Board agreed to its re-commencement as the Good Governance Project. The objective was to identify both the issues deriving from the current scheme administrative arrangements and the potential benefits of further increasing the level of separation between host authority and the scheme manager role.
Following a procurement exercise, the Board appointed Hymans Robertson in January 2019 to examine the effectiveness of current LGPS governance models and to consider alternatives or enhancements to existing models which could strengthen LGPS governance going forward. This resulted in the Phase 3 Final Report and the Action Plan published on 23 February 2021. The Phase 3 report built on the key proposals from the Phase II report (published February 2020) and provided further detail on the ways in which the proposals might be implemented. The key proposals were:
Critical features of the ‘outcomes based’ model should include:
(a) robust conflict management including clarity on roles and responsibilities for decision-making;
(b) assurance on sufficiency of administration and other resources (quantity and competency) and appropriate budget;
(c) explanation of policy on employer and scheme member engagement and representation in governance; and
(d) regular independent review of governance- thisshouldbe basedon an enhanced governance compliance statement which should explain how therequired outcomesare delivered.
In addition to the Phase 3 report, the SAB also published an Action Plan. The agreed Action Plan comprised:
(a) Those matters that would fall to MHCLG to implement, either by amending scheme regulations or producing statutory guidance:
(b) Those matters that would fall to the SAB and other bodies to implement - subject to the actions in (a) being taken by MHCLG; and
(c) Actions to identify and promote existing best practice that the SAB could take forward regardless of the outcome of the above.
The Director for Corporate Services informed the Committee that Staffordshire Pension Fund was proud of its governance arrangements and had for the last three years received substantial assurance on such from Staffordshire Internal Audit Services. A range of policies existed that were regularly reviewed and kept up to date and Elected Members and the Local Pensions Board engaged in regular Training activities.
The Committee noted that the Phase 3 report introduced a number of new concepts and made several recommendations that did not currently form part of scheme wide LGPS governance arrangements. Some of the more fundamental changes included:
· LGPS Senior Officer – each administering authority must have a single named officer who was responsible for the delivery of all LGPS related activity for that fund.
· Governance Compliance Statement (GCS) – each administering authority must publish an annual GCS that sets out how they comply with the governance requirements for all LGPS funds as set out in the Guidance. This statement must be co-signed by the LGPS Senior Officer and the S151.
· Independent Governance Review (IGR) - each administering authority must undergo a biennial IGR and, if applicable, produce the required improvement plan to address any issues identified. IGR reports would be assessed by a SAB panel of experts.
The Committee considered, at Appendix 2 to the report, a gap analysis of the various recommendations from the Phase 3 report and how the Staffordshire Pension Fund currently complied with the proposed arrangements. Setting aside any future potential resource implications, it was reassuring that the gap analysis indicated that there no areas of real concern. Whilst there were several areas where some review work could commence, other areas would need to wait for more formal guidance to be issued.
One such set of updated guidance was the revised CIPFA Knowledge and Skills Framework, which was published in August 2021, in response to the Phase 3 report recommendations. This would be reviewed by Fund Officers and any recommendations addressed as part of the Fund’s Training Policy, which was to be the subject of a separate report to a future meeting of the Committee.
RESOLVED – (a) That the content of Hymans Robertson’s’ Good Governance: Phase 3, Report to the Scheme Advisory Board dated February 2021 be noted; and
(b) That the Gap Analysis provided for the Staffordshire Pension Fund, in relation to the recommendations of the Good Governance Project, provided at Appendix 2 to the report, be noted.