Report of the City Treasurer and the Director of People Services.
5.1 Nikki Parsons (Pension Fund Officer) presented the report and referred to the first risk on the Risk Register identified by the Board for further consideration: Officers do not have appropriate skills and knowledge to perform their roles resulting in the service not being provided in line with best practice and legal requirements and succession planning not being in place. She drew Members’ attention to the controls set out in the report to mitigate this risk, which included using the person specifications to appoint officers with the relevant skills and experience. As part of the annual performance appraisal process, a personal development plan was also in place. Officers could also access guidance on pension matters from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) and other professional organisations, such as the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association and these organisations also offered training events and produced publications. Nikki Parsons advised that a framework for officers was also available underpinning the six core areas of pension finance. Members noted that pension finance officers were part of the tri-borough Treasury and Pensions Team, meaning there are more skilled officers within the team to provide support and cover. Nikki Parsons advised that when the Tri-Borough Director of Treasury and Pensions left the Council in November, Peter Carpenter, who had previously managed treasury and pensions at the Council, was appointed to replace him on an interim basis. An additional officer in People Services had also been appointed in the Pension Support area.
5.2 Turning to the second risk: Administrators do not have sufficient staff or skills to manage the service leading to poor performance and complaints, Nikki Parsons advised that this had a low risk classification and that the Pension Support Team had visited Surrey County Council, the pension administrators, to discuss issues and reassurances had been made, whilst there had also been improvement to the telephone system to deal with customer enquiries more effectively. In addition, the key performance indicators had been reviewed and updated and Surrey County Council would be reporting on a wider range of tasks to allow the Council to monitor their performance more closely.
5.3 Members asked whether having more than one officer who had Treasury and Pensions management experience was deliberate in case the post holder left the position at short notice. It was also queried whether there were officers available who could help provide advice in respect of guidance issued by CIPFA and other professional organisations.
5.4 In reply, Peter Carpenter advised that there was a range of senior finance officers who had treasury and pensions management experience who could cover the Tri-borough Director of Treasury and Pensions role. He stated that generally most officers who reached Assistant Director level would have covered most areas of finance, including treasury and pensions. Technical advice was also provided to officers by Peter Worth in Finance. In addition, the Pension Fund Committee’s membership had remained largely unchanged for a number of years and the members were experienced on pension matters. Peter Carpenter stated that specialist advisers who attended the Pension Fund Committee could also be invited to attend Pension Board meetings.
5.5 Members noted that a new appointment had been made to support the Pensions and Payroll Adviser post. Sarah Hay added that Surrey County Council had trained up more staff with the appropriate technical skills to improve resilience in the event of staff going on long term sick leave.