Halcrow Pensioners Association

Newsletter No. 37


 Newsletter No. 37 : October 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.

Trustee's Recovery of Overpaid Pensions
As HPS2 members are aware, out of the blue and shortly after transfer, some pensioners received blunt demands from the Trustee for the recovery of overpaid pension stretching back many years. On querying these demands, those involved discovered that these were a result of mistakes made by the Scheme and they could not have known about the overpayment. However, the Trustee made it very clear to those disputing the recovery that it would not consider any argument against the recovery and would fight any complaint even if made to the Pensions Ombudsman, if necessary, all the way to court. Faced with this hard-line stance and put off by the stress, cost and difficulty of fighting their case many pensioners did not pursue their valid defence that they were unaware of the error and spent the money in good faith. Despite this error being its mistake and arising from a complex and specialist pension computation, the Trustee is in effect saying pensioners are guilty of knowingly taking this money unless they can prove otherwise. The Trustee is aware that for pensioners to prove their case takes time and effort and possibly expensive legal assistance.

These pensioners have already had their pensions reduced by the RAA, further reduced to correct the overpayment error and have deductions to repay the overpayment.  The actual total overpayment sum involved makes little or no difference to the financial health of HPS2 but is obviously a severe blow to those pensioners affected. Perversely, the Trustee is still pursuing those pensioners who are attempting to fight their case. In some instances, this means the Trustee will be spending considerably more in administration and legal cost than the sum involved.

Earlier this year, HPA became aware of the actions of the Civil Service Pension Scheme (CSPS) under similar circumstances of discovering overpayment due to its own mistake of the type made by HPS2. The CSPS apologised for its error and informed pensioners that no overpayment recovery would be pursued (see the letter here).  This humane approach by CSPS contrasts sharply with that of the HPS2 Trustee.

HPA wrote to the Chair of the HPS2 Trustee Board to ask for comment on the actions of the CSPS in the hope they would stop overpayment recovery and reimburse those involved. The Trustee replied in a letter signed by the Secretary to the Trustee and this baldly states, “The Trustee has reviewed your letter with interest but is not minded to change its policy where an overpayment of pension has occurred”.

As far as we are aware, the Trustee has no documented policy or procedure in respect to HPS2 overpayment but such good practice does exist elsewhere. HPA is appalled by the attitude of the Trustee which contrasts greatly to that that existed when the original scheme was in operation.

The Future of HPA
The need for HPA continues and among the possible ongoing tasks are:
1.    To closely monitor HPS2 and watch out for Jacobs trying to reduce pensions further or claim back contributions on the grounds of the scheme being over-funded (a few years of higher inflation could create this situation).
2.    To examine or comment on proposals for changes to pension-related laws or regulations.
3.    Take opportunities to press for better supervision of pension schemes and their sponsoring companies.

4.    To follow the potential changes in pension scheme rules arising from the Hampshire vs PPF court decision.

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.