Halcrow Pensioners Association

Newsletter No. 34


 Newsletter No. 34 : January 2019

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 or be a former member of HPS who has transferred to the PPF. Membership of HPA is open to all interested HPS / HPS2 members and currently costs £10/year.  If you do not wish to receive the HPA newsletters then please email the webmaster to remove your name from the mailing list.

Hampshire vs PPF
HPA has been following the court case known as "Hampshire vs PPF" which had been referred to the European Court of Justice. In summary, a Mr Hampshire whose pension scheme was transferred to the PPF when his employer became insolvent had challenged the legality of having his pension reduced. The case is described in detail here.  The European Court of Justice announced its decision in September 2018 which has been summarised as “In September 2018 the Court of Justice of the European Union (the CJEU) ruled that pension scheme members should receive at least 50% of the value of their accrued old age benefits if their employer became insolvent.” The decision used the term "old age benefits" so that it covered both normal pensions and the PPF compensation.

The PPF is actively implementing this decision for the pensioners under its jurisdiction. This will include the former HPS members who have transferred to PPF. However, HPA believes that the ruling also applies to members of HPS2 who were promised in the HPS2 offer letter of May 2016 that “the new scheme cannot be worse off than if members had chosen to transfer to PPF”. However, don’t get excited about receiving more pension as, if annual inflation remains below 5%, it will take many years (about 15 for those who have only pre-March 1997 accruals – for others it will be longer) for HPS2 pensions to become only 50% of what the HPS pensions would have been.

News from HPS2 Trustee
The HPS2 trustee has its own pensions website for which logon credentials will be provided by the pensions team on request from scheme members. Routine news (excepting the annual pension review) is no longer posted to members. A member update was issued in September 2018 and contained some points of interest:

  • There has been no change in the scheme operation with Halcrow Group still contributing to the scheme and CH2M remaining as guarantor.
  • HGL is continuing to pay the monthly contributions agreed at the valuation last year, and also meets the Scheme’s expenses.
  • The scheme's funding situation has improved but is subject to the fluctuations in the financial markets.
  • The trustee board has been reduced from seven members to five. One member-nominated trustee director position was already vacant and one of the company nominated trustee directors has resigned.

Annual Subscription to HPA
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 vigilant and, if necessary, in a position to take action. For example, the HPS2 trustee board may need encouragement to implement the Hampshire vs PPF court decision. There are also changes in pension legislation under consideration and major financial uncertainties ahead.

The HPA committee therefore asks that members continue to support HPA, both through their postings to the forum (which has been very quiet) and their annual subscription. The treasurer looks forward to receiving your subscriptions for 2019 (payment methods are here). The 2019 subscription was fixed at £10 at the 2018 annual general meeting and the rate for 2020 will be reviewed at the next AGM. Please remember to email the treasurer when you pay your subscription so that funds received can be easily identified.

Disputes Referrred to the Pensions Ombudsman
The HPA committee would like to get a more complete understanding of how many disputes relating to HPS have been submitted to the Pensions Ombudsman and how they are progressing in order to see if better outcomes can be achieved through the sharing of information. One of the committee members has volunteered to coordinate this exercise. It is appreciated that some cases may be subject to confidentiality agreements but even limited information is better than nothing and can be shared verbally if appropriate. Please email the webmaster if you would be willing to be contacted about this.

Compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
The General Data Protection Regulation came into force on 25 May 2018. To ensure that HPA is compliant with the new requirements, anyone who had not either paid a subscription to HPA or opted in to receiving newsletters has been removed from the mailing database. You can, however, re-subscribe by filling in this form. HPA would stress that it does not share its database with third parties.

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.