Halcrow Pensioners Association

Newsletter No. 29


 Newsletter No 29 : January 2018

This is a newsletter of the Halcrow Pensioners Association. More details of HPA's objectives, organisation and its activities are here. You have been sent this newsletter because you may be a member of the Halcrow Pension Scheme or its successor, HPS2. Membership of HPA is open to all interested HPS / HPS2 members and currently costs £10/year.  If you are not a member then please use the unsubscribe link at the bottom of this email to remove your name from the mailing list or email the webmaster to remove your name.

Deductions from Pensions in Payment to Correct for Administrative Errors
As mentioned in Newsletter No. 28, the Halcrow pensions administration team has undertaken checking of records and the calculation of pensions in payment. Pensioners were forewarned about this process in their notification of 2017 pension sent out in December 2016. HPA has been made aware that a number of HPS scheme members have been contacted by the Trustee and asked to repay significant sums in respect of overpayment due to alleged errors made in the calculation of their pension by the Halcrow pensions administration team. There is potentially a prima facie case of pension scheme maladministration.

Some scheme members have received an unwelcome shock when they were notified that their pension had been mis-calculated and not only would the future pension payments be reduced but there would be deductions to recover the past overpayment of their pension. The adverse financial implications for the affected people are made worse by the removal of the annual increase for pre-April 1997 accruals. If you are one of those being asked to repay an overpayment we are sorry to hear of your difficulties. It is important that you inform the Pensions Advisory Service (PAS) so that a fuller picture can be seen. Once there is a fuller picture of possible maladministration it will be useful information to take the case forward. If you know of any pension scheme members who are not members of HPA then please forward this email to them as we are concerned that some pensioners may not know where to seek help and succumb to the pressure from the Trustee.
HPA has also set up a task force to help guide affected scheme members navigate the bureaucracy. You can contact this taskforce here. Clearly, we cannot give legal advice. However, just because the Halcrow pension administration requests repayment is not a reason that they get repayment. We are aware of successful legal arguments that could preclude repayment or reduce the amount. The PAS information here gives relevant examples and the Pensions Ombudsman also documents some relevant cases. Common sense dictates that you should not agree to any repayment without Pension Advisory Service advice or your own legal advice. A poll has been set up in the HPA forum where members can indicate how the review affected their pension in payment.

HPA 2018 Subcriptions
The HPA treasurer has reported that the inflow of HPA subscriptions is even slower than usual and requests that readers send their £10 in accordance with the instructions here. You may be wondering if there is a long term need for HPA but, with the recent change in company ownership and several cases still pending with the Pensions Ombudsman we need to remain vigilent.

HPS2 News
HPS2 members may have noticed the dearth of news from the Trustee. One reason is that information is no longer sent out, even by email, and scheme members are expected to go to the HPS2 website to find out what is happening. However, there's not a lot to be found there, with documents published during the past six months being:

  • Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. completes takeover of CH2M – December 2017
  • Investment De-Risking Update – October 2017
  • Conflicts of Interest Policy – 2017
  • Notice re. change to Trustee Board – August 2017
  • Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. to buy CH2M – August 2017
  • HPS2 Report on Actuarial Valuation – 31st December 2016
  • HPS2 Trustee’s Annual Report and Accounts period to 31st December 2016
  • Summary Funding Statement – July 2017

There's no evidence that the trustees (more accurately, the directors of the Trustee which is a limited liability company) are very active. Presumably, now the company has succeeded in shrinking the pensions liability it wants to minimise the administration costs.

Member-Nominated Directors of Trustee
One of the documents on the HPS2 website relates to the member-nominated directors and states: "We wrote to members in May this year about the MND selection process under HPS2. We are pleased to let members know that the Trustee has now completed the process, and the appointments will be effective from the next Trustee meeting on 19 July. Although the Trustee was seeking to fill 3 MND positions on a board of 7 Trustee directors, in practice only 2 members put themselves forward for selection.  These are Jim Billinghurst and John Irwin, who were both member nominated trustees of HPS and are currently on the board of the Trustee for HPS2.The Trustee directors are delighted to have 2 individuals with so much knowledge about and enthusiasm for the Scheme back on the board. However, they are obviously disappointed not to have filled all 3 positions, particularly given the extensive engagement with members over the course of last year." Derek Pollock ceased to be a trustee director effective 19th July 2017 and John Irwin has taken over the chair. HPA wishes to acknowledge the efforts made by Dr Pollock to protect the interests of HPS members.

So why weren't there more nominations for the positions of trustee director? Possible reasons are (i) the HPS 2016 road shows were managed by ITS (Independent Trustee Services) who are a company nominated director and, as a professional trustee, likely to out-manoeuvre the other directors; (ii) there is negligible involvement of scheme members in the selection process; and (iii) being a trustee company director has its own requirements.

Carillion Pension Schemes
Members are probably aware of the collapse of Carillion with adverse implications for the members of its various pension schemes. It has emerged that, like HPS, company contributions had been inadequate for some years and the Pensions Regulator is likely to incur more criticism. The quality of auditing of the company accounts has been questioned. There now appears to be much more vigorous scrutiny of the actions of pension scheme trustees, the Pensions Regulator and company directors and a few years ago. HPA's activities may have contributed to this but it is unfortunate that such vigilence did not occur sooner.   

Halcrow Group Ltd 2016 Accounts
Halcrow Group Ltd is the sponsoring company for the Halcrow Pension schemes. The accounts for 2016 show a paper profit of about £270 million, largely because of a "Gain on pension settlement". The document also shows the ownership of HGL as being: Halcrow Consulting Ltd = 75%; Halcrow Pension Trustee Ltd = 20%; Halcrow Pension Trustee Limited - (HPS PPF Interest) = 5%.

Halcrow Pension Scheme No. 2 2016 Accounts
The 2016 accounts for HPS2 reveal that 92.5% of HPS members elected to transfer to HPS2. The accounts show that the assets at the end of the period were £564,609,000 but the liabilities are not quantified as there was an ongoing actuarial review. Total scheme membership at 31st December 2016 was 2,952 comprising 1,325 pensioner members and 1,627 members with preserved benefits.

Previous Newsletters
If you haven't been with HPA from the start or want to remind yourself of previous events then you can browse through the previous newsletters for which there is a full list here.