The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has warned that governance and administration standards are still lacking across the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS).
Speaking at the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association's local authority conference today, senior representatives from the watchdog said governance patterns in the public sector are very similar to the private sector, such as larger schemes tend to be better governed than smaller ones.
It comes as the regulator is looking to raise standards across both sectors, and is increasing its front-line regulation. Its focus for public sector schemes will be on 21st century governance, record-keeping, internal controls and member communications.
Policy lead Nick Gannon said now that TPR has secured additional resources internally, it will look to do more face to face communication with the LGPS funds.
He also said the watchdog expects to issue more Section 89 regulatory intervention reports against public sector schemes. It used this power earlier in the year to take action when three local authorities and 40 schools failed to submit information to the Teachers' Pension Scheme.
The regulator has concerns after its recent survey of public sector schemes showed while the majority (83%) of LGPS funds had done a data audit, very few took any action on issues with just 23% having improvement plans in place.
Speaking on a governance panel this morning, head of policy Fiona Frobisher said there is a clear need for progress:
"Of the improvement plans we've seen across the public sector, some of those aren't great either. So it's about getting something that's more meaningful rather than just going through the process.
"To get governance right, local authority schemes should be giving administration the focus it needs, making sure it's at the top of agenda, and given sufficient time and resource to be looked at properly."
Frobisher added the watchdog is looking to make the standards it expects of public sector schemes much clearer, admitting the Code of Practice 14 at around 70 pages long is "massive".
"It's great if you have time to read it all, but I accept people might not have the time."
"Where the training is left to the individual member, we think that's poor. The minimum standard should be the chair doing some kind of annual review of skills and gaps, and helps to work out a programme on training across the board."
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