Note of meeting - 30 September 2021

Published 09/12/2021   |   Last Updated 09/12/2021   |   Reading Time minutes

This letter provides a summary of the Board’s discussions and decisions. It will be
published on the Board’s website along with summaries of previous meetings.

1. Engagement with Members and support staff

As a Board, we are committed to a programme of engagement with Members of the
Senedd and your support staff.

As part of this programme, two Representative Groups exist: one representing Members
and the other representing your support staff. Details of the Groups’ memberships for the
Sixth Senedd is provided in the Annex to this letter. Representative Group meetings
provide an opportunity to bring significant issues to our attention, to enable us to better
understand the issues facing you and your staff. They also provide an opportunity for us to
update you and your staff―and seek your input―on our work. Board members met with
Representative Groups on Wednesday 29 September. We are grateful for the important
contributions made, which fed into our formal meeting on 30 September and which will
inform our future work programme.

In line with our previous commitment to arrange termly drop-in sessions for Members,
we will make arrangements for our next drop-ins to take place on 24 November 2021,
14:00 – 16:30. Subject to relevant public health guidance and risk assessments, our plan is
to conduct these meetings in the Senedd – we look forward to meeting with you then.

Over the course of this Senedd we are also arranging a longer-term programme of
meetings and visits with:

  • former Members, to gather their feedback on the effectiveness of the support
    provided from the Determination during their time in office, and in the immediate
    period following the election;
  • newly elected and returning Members and staff, to explore your reflections on
    your experiences to date and your views on the extent to which the support
    provided enables you to perform your duties effectively while providing value for
    money for the taxpayer.

2. Members of the Senedd Pension Scheme

We considered a range of matters relating to the Members of the Senedd Pension Scheme
at our meeting on 30 September:

2.1 McCloud and Sargeant Remedy

During Summer 2021, we consulted on proposals to make changes to the Members of the
Senedd Pension Scheme (“the Scheme”) Rules. These proposals were made in light of the
impact of the Supreme Court’s McCloud and Sargeant judgment, which ruled that certain
public service pension scheme provisions which treated younger members less favourably
on the grounds of age were discriminatory.

Our consultation closed on 6 September 2021 and no objections to our proposals were
submitted. We considered all responses and our proposals at our meeting on 30
September 2021 and agreed to:

  • offer affected members of the Scheme an immediate choice as to whether they wish
    to be returned to the Final Salary section or remain in the Career Average Revalued
    Earnings (CARE) section for the period when the inequality existed; and
  • offer a contribution of up to £150 towards the cost of independent financial advice
    on this matter.

As a Board we are required to obtain the approval of HM Treasury to amend the Scheme
Rules before the proposals can be adopted. We are currently liaising with HM Treasury.
Once approval is received from HM Treasury, affected members of the Scheme will receive
a letter from the Senedd’s Head of Pensions, confirming what this means for them. This
letter will ask the affected Scheme member to consider the information provided and indicate whether they wish to be returned to the Final Salary section of the Scheme or remain in the CARE section for the period when the inequality existed.

2.2 Partner nomination

The Scheme Rules currently state that where a member is unmarried, in order for their cohabiting partner to qualify for a dependant’s pension in the event of the member’s death,
they need to be nominated by the member in writing at least 6 months before the
member’s death.

Many UK public service pension schemes contain, or have contained, a nomination form
requirement. However as a result of a Supreme Court ruling (Brewster), legal advice has
confirmed that this is discriminatory, as there is no requirement for married members of
the Scheme to nominate a spouse for a spouse’s pension to be payable.

In light of the above, at our meeting on 30 September, we agreed that the Scheme Rules
should be amended to remove the nomination form requirement contained in the
definition of “partner”.

2.3 Other pension scheme matters

During our meeting on 30 September we also:

  • agreed the demographic assumptions for the cost cap valuation2 of the Members of
    the Senedd Pension Scheme;
  • noted a change to the Pension Board’s Terms of Reference (to clarify the process for
    obtaining nominations for Member Nominated Trustees); and
  • considered our response to the UK Government’s intention to amend the Public
    Service Pensions and Judicial Offices Bill to address the requirement for HM
    Treasury Ministers to approve any changes made by the Board to the Members’
    pension scheme.

3. Strategy

In our last update we reported that the majority of our July discussions were focused on
developing our strategic aims for the remainder of our term in office. At our meeting in
September, we reviewed our findings, and we plan to agree and publish our final strategy following our next meeting in November. We will be inviting feedback from Members on its content.

4. Review of COVID-19 support

In our last update letter, we informed you of our intention to review the provisions we had
put in place in relation to COVID-19 support for you and your staff. We invited you to
share issues with us by early September 2021 to inform our review.

In light of ongoing uncertainty about the impact of the pandemic, and due to feedback
from you and your staff that many of you are still considering how COVID-19 is affecting
your ways of working, we have agreed to continue existing provisions for the Home
Working Allowance; the Return to Offices COVID-19 Fund; and Display Screen Equipment
(DSE) assessments.

Home Working Allowance: The Board has made funds available for each Member to be
able to pay their staff a tax-free allowance of up to £6 per week (or £26 a month for
employees paid monthly) to cover the additional costs of working at home without
needing to worry about determining the actual costs incurred. The allowance is reduced
pro rata for staff who work part time or if staff are absent (e.g. on holiday or sick leave).

Return to Offices COVID-19 Fund: This Fund is available to provide funding to
purchase equipment that is necessary to minimise the risk of infection by COVID-19 to
individuals present in your constituency or regional office, based on a risk assessment
undertaken by you. Such equipment may include, for example, sanitiser, face masks and
protective screens. Any claims submitted for costs in excess of £500 in total may be
subject to further scrutiny and verification before they are accepted, to ensure the
proper use of resources.

Display Screen Equipment (DSE) assessments: An online tool is available to enable you
and your staff to undertake an assessment at home, with costs related to adjustments
met from the Office Costs Allowance (Health and Safety provision) in the first instance.

These provisions will remain in place while we undertake what we believe are necessary
and timely reviews of support for flexible/home working, and for related health and safety
requirements. As a Board, we are conscious that the pandemic has thrown into focus
employers’ approaches to these matters. We also recognise the complexities that can arise,
particularly in terms of health and safety considerations in both covid and non-covid
contexts, and when terms of office leases are taken into account. Our overall aim is to work
towards more streamlined and simplified arrangements for supporting Members in these areas, while ensuring that the important principles of value for money and reasonableness
are maintained.

We intend to give initial consideration to these reviews in our January 2022 meeting. We
will ensure that you are updated on our next steps, especially how you will be able to share
your views on these matters with us. In the meantime, you and your staff are invited to
submit any further issues relating to COVID-19 support to us by 1 November 2021 to
inform our ongoing consideration of these matters.

5. Next Board meeting

Our next meeting will take place on 25 November 2021 and we will consider:

  • Annual Review of Determination – proposals for consultation [as part of these
    discussions we will consider, among other things, the issues brought to our attention
    via correspondence and Representative Group meetings. Any matters Members wish
    the Board to consider at its next meeting should be raised by 1 November 2021.]
  • Board mandated requirements - employment policies
  • Security provisions – update and review
  • Board Strategy for 2021-2026 – consideration of final draft.

In closing I would like to note the Board’s gratitude to Lleu Williams, former Clerk to the
Board, for his contribution to our work in recent years, and to wish him well in his new role
as a Committee Clerk.