Pensions challenge ‘unlikely to succeed’

21 October 2015

A high profile challenge to the new police pension scheme is unlikely to succeed in officers receiving damages or a return to their previous pensions, the Police Federation has warned.

In an open letter, Andy Fittes, general secretary, warned that the challenge could instead actually end up damaging the benefits for all officers who are members of the police pension schemes . The challenge focuses on some of the protections afforded to those who had between 10 and 14 years left until pensionable age on one of the old police pension schemes.

The Police Federation of England and Wales is not supporting the challenge to the CARE 2015 scheme because legal advice it has received states the challenge, which is based on discrimination, has little chance of success.

In addition, the organisation has concerns that the government may do away with the protections which are being challenged but also that ministers might seek to pre-emptively change the entire scheme for the worse to avoid any potential legal action.

Mr Fittes said: ‘Even if the challenge were to succeed – which our legal advice suggests is highly unlikely - it could actually damage the long term interests of our colleagues . We have a duty to act in the interests of all our members and therefore we feel this is not a challenge we can support.  

‘All officers feel aggrieved at the way the government went ahead and implemented changes to police pensions. It was damaging to officers’ wellbeing and morale at the very time when the government should have been supporting its police officers who, due to the cuts to police budgets, were having to work harder and harder as the cuts ate away at the numbers of their colleagues.

When the PFEW was first consulted only the ten year protection existed . There was no tapering . That would have meant that anyone with 10 years plus one day would have been on a cliff edge , and would have lost out completely on protection . We pushed hard to ensure that , instead of that situation , there was a gradual tapering of benefits – in effect removing the cliff off which many of our colleagues would have fallen . Tapering effectively means that more officers remain in the old scheme with its improved benefits , for longer .

‘This tapering is evidently not perfect. We would have preferred that every officer stayed in the old schemes, and argued to that effect but we felt this was the best way, in the face of a determined government, to protect the benefits of as many colleagues as possible, for as long as possible.

‘The PFEW exists to represent the best interests of all the federated ranks rather than just those of a specific group of officers. The government is not required to negotiate with us on pensions; we are only consulted. We have a duty to protect the interests of all police officers and to use membership funds but only where we are advised there is a reasonable chance of success.

‘This means looking to the future, and understanding the likely next steps of all parties in any long-term reform process.’  

•    The open letter can be found here along with other details about the CARE 2015 police pension scheme.