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Governing public service schemes

Public service pension schemes do not have trustees. Instead the overall responsibility for a scheme sits with the scheme manager. They are supported by pension boards that help them to comply with scheme regulations and other legislation.

Pension boards are not the same as trustee boards as they are not decision-makers. They provide assurance and advice to scheme managers, who make the decisions.

All people involved in governing and administering public service schemes should have the appropriate skills and expertise. However, there’s a specific legal obligation on pension board members to have knowledge and understanding of their scheme rules, their scheme’s documented administration policies and pensions law.

The table below provides more details about the role of scheme managers, pension boards and others involved in governing public service schemes. Those involved with local government pension schemes may also have investment responsibilities.

Name Role Who they are in practice Responsibilities (examples)

Responsible authority

Set scheme policy.

Minister or Secretary of State, Scottish or Welsh Ministers or a government department.

  • Determine scheme policy, eg benefit structure.
  • Set out scheme policy in regulations, including the role of the scheme manager, pension board and scheme advisory board.

Scheme manager

Overall responsibility for the scheme.

Scheme managers sometimes delegate specific activities or functions to other parties, such as administrators. However, they remain accountable for complying with the law and the overall management and administration of their scheme.

Local government pension schemes: an administering authority (typically a council) or the Northern Ireland Local Government Officers’ Superannuation Committee.

Police pension schemes: police pension authorities (usually the Chief Constable / Metropolitan Police Commissioner), the Northern Ireland Policing Board or Scottish Ministers.

Firefighters’ pension schemes: fire and rescue authorities, the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service Board or Scottish Ministers.

Armed forces, civil service, judicial, health services (NHS) and teachers pension schemes: Minister or Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Department or Scottish Ministers.

  • Ensure compliance with scheme regulations and other legislation.
  • Manage risks and ensure there are adequate internal controls.
  • Ensure that pension boards members don’t have conflicts of interest.
  • Put in place effective dispute resolution procedures.
  • Keep records and ensure the quality of member data.
  • Communicate information to members including benefit statements.
  • Publish information on pension boards.
  • Report late payment of contributions.
  • Meet our reporting requirements, eg completing scheme returns.
  • Report breaches to us where required.

Pension board

Assist the scheme manager.

A collection of suitably knowledgeable people with equal numbers of employer and member representatives.

Some have other types of members, such as independent experts or independent chairs or vice-chairs.

  • Help the scheme manager to comply with scheme regulations, other legislation and any requirements we have.
  • Have the required knowledge and understanding of scheme rules, documents recording scheme administration policies and pensions law.
  • Report breaches to us where required.
  • Responsibilities can vary. Some pension boards have a strong focus on assurance, others advise on member communications and others carry out specific functions on behalf of the scheme manager, eg appointing or managing the scheme administrator.

Scheme advisory board

Advise the responsible authority.

In some schemes, advise the scheme manager and pension board.

Often equal numbers of employer and member representatives.

Some have other types of members, such as independent experts.

  • Advise the responsible authority on the desirability of changes to the scheme, such as adjustments to the scheme if costs breach the employer cost cap.
  • In some schemes, advise scheme managers and pension boards on governance and administration, eg by providing guidance.
  • Report breaches to us where required.

Administrators

Carry out day-to-day functions of running the scheme for the scheme manager.

May be in-house or third party.

  • Keep records.
  • Collect contributions.
  • Pay benefits to members.
  • Report breaches to us where required.

Employers

Employ members of the pension scheme.

Central or local government, armed forces, NHS, police forces and other parts of the public sector.

Private sector employers where staff are transferred from the public sector, eg on outsourcing contracts or eligible for access under individual scheme provisions.

  • Meet employer duties related to automatic enrolment.
  • Pay contributions in line with requirements in scheme regulations.
  • Keep and provide data to scheme manager or administrator.
  • Report breaches to us where required.

Pension committees or investment committees (only local government pension schemes)

Administer, invest and manage pension funds on behalf of the scheme managers of local government pension schemes.

Generally, councillors with experience or interest in investment.

  • Set the investment strategy and publish an investment strategy statement.
  • Prepare and publish the funding strategy statement.
  • Appoint investment managers.

Regulating public service schemes

The Pensions Regulator is responsible for regulating the governance and administration of public service schemes in the UK.

We provide information, education and assistance to help scheme managers, pension boards, administrators, employers and others to comply with the law and strive towards best practice. We work with scheme advisory boards to make sure our messages reach the broadest audience possible.

Where necessary we will use our powers to put things right and to keep schemes on track.

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