Local YMCA told to reach agreement on payments into pension scheme

Huddersfield YMCA disputes the amount it has been asked to pay, but a ruling by the Deputy Pensions Ombudsman says it has to make contributions

A local YMCA and the trustee of its multi-employer pension scheme must agree a plan for the charity to contribute to the pension scheme, the Deputy Pensions Ombudsman has ruled.

The YMCA Pension Plan Trustee, the corporate trustee of the pension scheme, sought a ruling on whether Huddersfield YMCA was a participating employer of the YMCA Pension and Assurance Plan.

Huddersfield YMCA has refused to make payments into the scheme because it disputes the amount it has been asked to pay.

The Deputy Pensions Ombudsman, Jane Irvine, confirmed that Huddersfield was a participating employer and therefore liable to make contributions.

But she said more information was needed before it was possible to decide what level of payment was required. She also ruled that the YMCA Pension Plan Trustee had been "premature" in asserting that Huddersfield YMCA’s refusal to make payments constituted its leaving of the scheme.

The plan is a multi-employer, defined-benefit pension scheme that involves 106 YMCAs. It has a deficit of more than £32m, according to the most recent accounts.

Several of the participating employers have disputed how much they owed the scheme and how contributions should be assessed. Hastings and Rother YMCA is also in dispute over payments, according to the latest pension plan accounts.

The calculation of liabilities is complicated because a number of employees have worked at several YMCAs over their careers and, in many cases, no one employer is liable for the whole of the debt relating to a single individual.

Huddersfield refused to make payments to the plan and said that the pension plan had demanded it pay more than £40,000 a year, which is more than the combined wages of the two employees it said were members of the scheme.

The YMCA Pension Plan Trustee said that Huddersfield YMCA’s refusal to pay amounted to withdrawal from the plan. It said it wanted £556,000, which was the amount owed on a "withdrawal basis".

On 27 March, the Deputy Pensions Ombudsman directed that within 28 days the pension plan trustee must provide the information required to agree a repayment plan; that within another 28 days Huddersfield YMCA should have agreed a plan with the trustee; and that within an additional 28 days Huddersfield YMCA must start to make repayments.

Paul Humphreys, a partner at the law firm Linder Myers, which represents Huddersfield YMCA, said the charity had still not received the information that the YMCA Pension Plan Trustee had been directed to provide.

"Huddersfield YMCA has always maintained a willingness to pay its fair due, but received a demand that we believe far exceeds the correct figure," Humphreys said.

He said he was concerned that Huddersfield was being asked to "cross-subsidise" other YMCAs, which the Deputy Pensions Ombudsman had ruled was not permissible under the scheme.

Paul Smillie, company secretary of the YMCA Pension Plan Trustee, said he wanted to reach an agreement as soon as possible.

"I’m keen to resolve the matter, keeping to the integrity of the original agreement recognising Huddersfield as a participating employer in the scheme," he said.

David Ainsworth

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