Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Finance Minister sets out to reassure Civil Service Pensions staff of no redundancies

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton MLA has set out to reassure staff working in Civil Service Pensions Branch in Londonderry that no one will be made redundant as plans progress to replace the pension administration and payment systems.

The Minister was speaking during an Adjournment Debate in the Assembly this evening on public sector jobs in the North West.

Simon Hamilton said: “I am acutely aware that staff in Civil Service Pensions Branch in Waterside House, Londonderry are concerned about job security in light of the plan to replace the pension administration and payment systems. Not least because their fears have been whipped up by ill-informed public comment.

“The Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme in Northern Ireland is the main pension scheme for all Northern Ireland civil servants and a number of other bodies. As of March 2013, there were 34,000 active members, 27,000 pensioner members and 8,500 deferred members of this scheme.”

Setting the context for the need of a replacement IT system the Minister continued:“The contracts in respect of the two current computer systems used to perform member administration and pensioner payroll functions are coming to an end and therefore must be replaced.

“The main options to be considered include both a system solution to be operated by civil servants or a managed service, i.e. an outsourced solution. No decision on the preferred option has yet been made. The Business Case is still being developed and has a number of Departmental approval stages to complete. My officials have consulted and will continue to consult with Trade Union Side and will keep staff up to date with developments as the project progresses.

“Civil Service Pensions Branch will continue to exist and be staffed by civil servants as there are a number of other key functions to delivery such as scheme management, policy and legislation and finance. However, whichever option is approved, there will be a reduction in staff required. Any surplus staff will be managed in line with documented NICS procedures, including natural wastage and redeployment. Let me reiterate no one will be made redundant contrary to the public statements to this effect attributed to NIPSA.”

Commenting on public service pension reform the Minister added: “Pension reform has an impact on the need for a new solution to be found. It is not the main driver for change, but in order to implement the new pension scheme for civil servants from 1 April 2015the new solution must be in place by that date.

“HM Treasury have made clear that we need to press ahead with the reforms of public service pensions. Failure to do this for the main schemes is estimated at over £300m for each year’s delay.”

Concluding Simon Hamilton said: “I want to recognise the work that the staff in Civil Service Pensions Branch do. I regret that some have sought to prey on their fears for their own ends. Screaming publicly that 80 jobs will be lost when nothing could be further from the truth does those staff no service whatsoever.”