More than 30 jobs are at risk at the skills development charity Skills for Logistics after its board yesterday announced its closure and possible entry into administration in the wake of pressure from the trustees of its pension scheme.
SfL, one of 18 sector skills councils in the UK, develops and delivers programmes to attract and develop staff for the freight logistics industry. Its accounts for the year ending 31 March 2014 show it had an income of £3.6m and 34 full-time-equivalent staff in that year.
A statement circulated yesterday to staff and external stakeholders said: "The board of Skills for Logistics has taken the decision to close the business and is considering placing the company into administration in order to facilitate this closure. This has happened due to pressure placed on the business by the trustees of the pension scheme, which SfL joined following its initial set-up in 2003."
The charity’s accounts say that its pension deficit was estimated to be £1.2m on 31 March 2014, down from an estimated £1.5m in 2010, but because the charity is part of a multi-employer scheme it is "unable to identify its share of the underlying assets and liabilities in the scheme on a consistent and reasonable basis".
The SfL statement continues: "Like many similar organisations, the significant pension deficit and subsequent ongoing recovery payments have placed extreme pressure on a smaller SfL business in a rapidly changing economic environment."
The statement says that another factor in the closure has been SfL’s struggle to replace revenue streams after the withdrawal of public funding. It is possible that some SfL activities and staff will continue to operate in another form, the statement implies. It says that the charity’s trustees are "starting to work with our stakeholders to find a natural home for any ongoing projects".
Andrew O'Brien, head of policy and public affairs at the Charity Finance Group, said this case reminded charities of the need to fully understand, regularly review and where necessary adapt their pension arrangements. "Government and regulators also need to ensure that sufficient information is given to charities about pension risks, so that they can take appropriate actions," he said.
SfL is one of the 18 sector skills councils and five sector skills bodies, a number of which are charities, including the voluntary sector body Skills Effect, and the Federation for Industry Sector Skills & Standards, which oversees the 23 organisations.