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Judicial review of government handling of pension scheme gets green light

Permission has been granted to the Fire Brigades Union (and others) to challenge the Government's reduction in the value of new pension schemes for firefighters.

The challenge is being brought on the grounds that the Government breached commitments made in legislation and to unions in 2015, that it contravenes the purpose of the cost control mechanism, and that it discriminates against younger scheme members.

The claim concerns firefighters who joined the Fire and Rescue Service on or after 1 April 2012. A 2019 judgment found that they are entitled to be members of the Firefighters' Pension Scheme 2015, and the parallel firefighters' pension schemes created by regulations made by the devolved administrations under section 2 of the Public Service Pensions and Judicial Offices Act.

However, the claimant contends that the funding arrangements for the 2015 Scheme are not being observed and that the Government is seeking to impose the estimated £17 billion cost of remedying the Government's unlawful discrimination upon them.

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In a letter announcing the judicial review, Mark Rowe, Fire Brigades Union (FBU) national officer, said: "The most recent completed valuations of the 2015 schemes showed that they were considerably cheaper.

"In the case of the firefighters' schemes the new scheme was 5.2% cheaper than anticipated, which would lead to an increase in the accrual rate from 1/59.7 to 1/51.2 (in fact the Scheme Advisory Board [which the FBU has a seat on] recommended a smaller improvement in the accrual rate and an improvement in early retirement reductions making it more palatable to retire before age 60)," he added.

"Therefore, the Government are trying to use financial improvements that should rightfully provide improvements in benefits or reduction in contributions to our members to rectify the cost of the Governments discrimination."

A related claim by the British Medical Association will be heard together with the case.

Adam Carey

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