As the dust continues to be stirred up following the Carillion collapse, now seems a good time to set out what we know so far in relation to the pensions aspects. The story remains fluid and volatile and will continue to be so for some time to come. Over the next few days, I’ll write some bite-size notes on various aspects and what we might expect.
So, here’s the first taste. There is a £587m shortfall in the Carillion pension scheme and 28,000 members of its 13 separate schemes deriving from multiple acquisitions over the years. As recently as September 2017 in its last Interim Report, Carillion reported a reduction in the pension scheme deficit (net of tax) since December 2016 of £76m. It still left an eye-watering figure. And by way of warning, it gave notice to the Trustees that discretionary increases in pensions would be withdrawn. However, the message generally remained upbeat, with mention of other changes (including moving from Retail Prices Index (RPI) to Consumer Prices Index (CPI) in order to calculate increases in benefits) resulting in a possible further £120m reduction in the deficit.
Despite these positive notes, for anyone with any insight into pension schemes this was more of a red flag, although it is hard to criticise attempts to reduce the deficit, as most managers of schemes in this situation would do. Perhaps some awkward questions will in due course be asked of the Scheme Actuary and the Trustees, as well as the Company, with regard to the overall funding and investment strategy; equally, the Pension Regulator may have some sleepless nights too if it is again suggested that it failed in its oversight, as it was following the collapse of BHS and Tata Steel
But more of that later. Tomorrow, the PPF and security of members’ benefits.