Ministers must stop interfering in council pensions, says UNISON

MPs will debate the future of the local government pension scheme (LGPS) in Westminster Hall today (Monday) in response to concerns that the government plans to interfere in investment decisions.

More than 100,000 people have signed a petition, backed by UNISON, saying it should be up to the funds to decide where they invest in line with the best interests of scheme members.

The debate on creating eight new multi-billion pound common investment vehicles will focus on who has the final say on how investment decisions are made. The government has said it may require the new funds to invest in accordance with UK foreign policy, a move which UNISON believes would breach European Union law.

UNISON says that representatives of nearly five million current and retired members of the schemes should have a voice on each of the new boards.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Ministers have created uncertainty by saying it is for LGPS funds to decide how they invest while reserving the right to intervene.

“It is unprecedented for the government to interfere in funds and is a breach of EU law, which clearly says member states shall not require institutions to invest in particular categories of assets.

“The government must listen to the House of Commons debate and move to clarify once and for all that it is for LGPS funds to decide their own investment strategy.”

Notes to editors:
– The debate will take place between 4.30 and 7.30pm in Westminster Hall.
– The government plans to create wealth funds of no less than £25bn to replace the current 89 local government pension funds, so they can invest in infrastructure projects.
– UNISON is not opposed to the creation of these new funds but is concerned that ministers intend to take powers to dictate how funds invest scheme members’ money, a move that the union believes would be unlawful.
– The England/Wales LGPS Scheme Advisory Board, the Law Commission and UNISON have asked the government to apply the investment regulations applicable to all other pension funds in the UK and the European Union – EU Directive 41/2003 Institutions for Occupational Retirement Provision (IORP).
– UNISON wants to see four seats for union representatives on each fund.
– The text of the parliamentary petition is available here. The petition was open for six months and when it closed on 25 September 105,771 people had signed it.
– The government’s response to the petition is available here.

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