USS consultation website ‘does not allow comments’

Academics complain after ‘technical difficulties’ delay responses and modelling tool

March 19, 2015

The Universities Superannuation Scheme has been criticised for launching a consultation website that does not yet allow people to comment on proposed changes to their pensions.

Thousands of staff at pre-1992 universities have recently been sent letters by the USS, which ask them to comment on plans for the scheme, including the end of final salary pensions for all staff from April 2016.

However, those accessing the site have been unable to make comments about the changes.

They are also unable to work out exactly how the changes will affect them because a benefits modeller, which compares the current and proposed schemes, is not working.

A message on the site states the USS is “currently experiencing some technical difficulties” and it is “working on resolving these issues as a matter of urgency”.

“The member log-in, response form and modeller will be available shortly”, it adds.

Polina Bayvel, professor of optical communications and networks at University College London, said she was “annoyed at having wasted time going to the website given the letters we all received informing us that we can respond from 13 March”.

“There is clearly a delay, but why send out the letters and waste people’s time,” she said.

“The documents currently on the website have been circulated previously and are not new,” she added in regard to the detailed descriptions and summaries of the proposed changes that are available to view.

She said she was keen to comment as “there is a strong feeling among academics…that the changes represent a case of ‘daylight robbery’”.

“Many of us had joined USS expecting to receive certain benefits and have made our life choices - on houses, mortgages, children’s schools - based on the often reiterated benefits offered by the scheme. I, for one, feel cheated,” she said.

The statutory 60-day consultation, which is due to run until 22 May, follows the acceptance of a revised pension offer from employers.

Members of University and College Union at pre-1992 universities voted two to one in favour of the reforms designed to plug an estimated £13 billion deficit, which will include the closure of the final salary pension scheme from next year.

Employees have been asked to comment on the plans, with comments reviewed by employers, the USS trustee board and the Joint Negotiating Committee before the proposed changes are adopted.

A USS spokeswoman said it had not released the modeller “as we are completing some further technical checks”.

“The detailed consultation information has however been available on the website since Friday 13 March and further content, including the modeller, will be added in the coming days,” she said.

She added that there is “currently no impact on planned timescales” regarding the 60-day consultation, and that USS would “continue to support employers to meet their consultation responsibilities and ensure that affected employees have adequate time to consider the proposed changes and respond”.

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