Good year for Northumberland pensions fund

Coun Jeff Watson
Coun Jeff Watson

‘It’s been a good year’ for Northumberland County Council’s 27,000-member pensions scheme, which has investments of more than £1billion.

In February last year, the council joined the Border to Coast Pensions Partnership (BCPP) after the Government called on councils to pool their investment assets.

Presenting the annual report of the pension fund panel at this month’s full council meeting, chairman Jeff Watson said that once the BCPP is complete, the fund will be worth £43billion.

Coun Watson, who was also elected as the authority’s new civic head at the meeting, said that while Northumberland had been working with 11 other pension funds in the past year, ‘all strategic decisions, including asset allocation, will remain with the county council’s panel’.

In January this year, the six members of staff in the Northumberland pensions team were transferred to the Tyne and Wear Pension Fund (ie South Tyneside Council) to form a shared administration service.

“The main driver for the change was to ensure a robust future service for members capable of meeting increased future government requirements,” said Coun Watson.

“And finally the good news, the funding level was 84 per cent at the most recent actual valuation, that was March 31, 2016, and it has improved to 98 per cent at the most recent estimate, as at December 31, 2017, mainly because of good market returns in the period and, I would like to think, a little bit of some of the things that we did on the panel.

“If improved funding is sustained to March 31, 2019, the currently high employer contribution paid by Northumberland County Council should reduce from April 1, 2020.”

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service