Employers Pensions Forum seeks more public cash

Group behind USS overhaul applies for further £100,000 award. John Morgan reports

June 9, 2011

Credit: Keith Morris/Alamy
Money talks: The University and College Union will be displeased by any addition to the EPF's publicly funded reserves

An employers' group that led the drive to cut academic pensions has bid to increase its public funding to more than £700,000, with total backing coming to £1.3 million.

The Employers Pensions Forum (EPF), which drew up the successful plans to reduce benefits in the Universities Superannuation Scheme, has already been awarded £6,000 by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Now it has applied for new public funding, according to papers released by Hefce under the Freedom of Information Act.

The employers' group has indicated that the application is for about £100,000, mainly to examine merging the pension schemes for support staff run by pre-1992 universities with the USS.

A Hefce spokesman said its funding for the EPF was "more than matched" by cash from sector bodies such as Universities UK. That means the EPF has received total funding of at least £1.3 million, which has covered work not just on the USS but all higher education pension schemes.

The University and College Union, whose proposals for the USS lost out to those of the EPF, has previously complained that it is unfair to channel public funding into an employers' body.

However, a Hefce spokesman said the body's "legitimate interest is in a sustainable workforce and higher education sector".

He added that part of the project's aim was to ensure that pensions were "understood and valued as an integral part of the reward package".

The Hefce papers also state that one USS director is a "member" of the EPF, which is mainly made up of vice-chancellors and senior university managers.

Michael MacNeil, the UCU's head of higher education, said this showed that the USS was "an integral part of the employers' proposals" and not a disinterested party.

There are four UUK appointees among the USS directors, alongside two UCU appointees.

A USS spokesman said directors had "met with their respective controlling bodies to update their colleagues, but only one director is a member of the EPF". The USS executive and scheme actuary "worked with both the UCU and the employers to assist them in formulating their proposals", the spokesman added.

In a previous Hefce-funded project, the EPF spent £60,000 on an actuary, £15,000 on a website and £10,000 on room hire and catering.

Alison Johns, Hefce's head of leadership, governance and management policy, says in an internal email that the EPF spending "represented good value for money".

Ms Johns says Hefce's expectations of trade union "engagement" were "made explicit" and the EPF "confirmed that they were engaged with (trade unions) both formally and informally".


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