UK government preparing to take over Royal Mail pension fund

The UK government has taken a step towards taking on Royal Mail’s historic pension liabilities by appointing a new independent chair of the Royal Mail Statutory Pension Scheme. Postal Affairs Minister Ed Davey appointed pension industry stalwart Alan Pickering to chair the scheme, which will assume the bulk of Royal Mail’s historic liabilities if the European Commission approves the proposal under EU state aid rules.

The government wants to take over Royal Mail’s historic pension liabilities as it shapes up the organisation for privatisation. Royal Mail will be left with a smaller, fully-funded pension plan, ministers have said.

The Pension Scheme’s new independent chairman is currently chairman of pension fund advisory company BESTrustees and is a former chairman of the National Association of Pension Funds and European Federation for Retirement Provision.

Pickering will take up his new role before the Royal Mail Statutory Pension Scheme officially begins operations on 1 April, 2012. He will chair the governance group that will monitor the Scheme – a group comprised of trade union representatives and members of the pension scheme as well as Royal Mail, Post Office Ltd and government representatives.

Announcing the appointment, Davey said Pickering was an “expert” on pensions and would offer strong leadership for the Scheme’s governance group.

“I look forward to working with him, and the governance group, as they work for the interests of the members of the new Royal Mail Statutory Pension Scheme and ensuring that they receive a seamless service,” said the minister.

Pickering, who is also currently chair of the Plumbing Industry Pension Scheme, a non-executive director of The Pensions Regulator and also currently serves as a trustee for a number of large pension schemes, said he was honoured to be given the opportunity to help give postal workers “the pension peace of mind that they deserve”.

“I know that all of these stakeholders have been working very hard to provide a seamless transition from the Royal Mail Pension Plan to the new government-backed scheme,” he said. “Representatives of these stakeholders will be my colleagues on the Royal Mail Statutory Pension Scheme governance group, and I look forward to being a member of their team.”

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