Crucial pension talks held for Scunthorpe steelworkers

By Scunthorpe Telegraph | Posted: 24 Oct 2017

Crunch talks for the estimated 20,000 local stake-holders in the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS) are being held in Scunthorpe today (Tuesday, October 24).

A series of meetings will be held at the Scunthorpe Baths Hall between 10am and 9pm to discuss the future of their investments.

Representatives from the 50-year-old BSPS will form a panel with the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) to answer questions.

Normally the steel fund which has assets of more than £15 billion would have been taken over by the PPF – a safety net for the pension industry.

But the trustees want to set up a new scheme with the help of cash from Tata Steel UK, the former owners of the Scunthorpe steelworks.

The Scunthorpe pensioners have been given until December 11 to make their choice.

BSPS trustee chairman Allan Johnston said: "All members are being sent personal information packs and for most people, the choice will be straightforward. For some members, however, the best choice will depend on their personal circumstances and preferences.

"This is an important decision and we are running members meetings so that as many members as possible can hear first-hand about the choices available from the Trustee and other experts.

"We want members to have the opportunity to ask the questions that matter to them. That’s why these meetings are ‘member-only’ events.

"It’s an important choice for our members and they need to have balanced and impartial information. We’re concerned by some of the stories we’re hearing of unofficial information being circulated which may not always be in the member’s best interests. These meetings are just one of the ways we’re trying to help our members make the choice that’s right for them."

A spokeswoman for the PPF said: "The PPF has protected members of the British Steel Pension Scheme throughout this process and will continue to do so. The trustees have started providing them with lots of information about their options.

"We’d encourage members to consider the details carefully and decide whether the new scheme or the PPF is the better option for them based on their individual circumstances."

The 4,500-strong British Steel Pension Members campaign group has said it prefers pensioners to choose the new scheme backed by Tata.

But Scunthorpe spokesman Shaun Leckey said: "Many members are receiving their individual option packs without any personal figures. For deferred pensioners not in receipt of pensions, this is a real blow as they are unable to compare the options which includes transferring out.

"We have taken this up with the Pensions Regulator as without this information we cannot give informed consent. A delay may be necessary to sort this out because the BSPS official statement is that we will receive no further information before the deadline.

"Many members are distraught, anxious and angry and this will come out at the Scunthorpe roadshow.

"As a group we are careful not to make a recommendation and be as impartial as we can because for many members the new scheme is not the best option. There are small minorities and the many deferred members who can transfer out or would get better early retirement benefits under PPF.

"The trustees have stated that vast majority of pensioners will be better off in BSPS2."

Some Scunthorpe pensioners have already decided against both options and have transferred out - in some cases banking payments in excess of £400,000.

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