Fenland council pays £500,000 to national pension fund that has just one of its employees as a member

Wisbech Port, West Parade bank.

Wisbech Port, West Parade bank. - Credit: Archant

Fenland Council will pay £500,000 to plug a black hole in a pension fund – even though only one of its workers is a member of it.

The contribution must be made to the Pilots National Pension Fund Reserve (PNPF) which provides a pension scheme for shipping pilots.

A report to yesterday’s cabinet meeting explained that the PNFP is in deficit and the council is paying an agreed annual contribution to sustain it. Recent reports suggested the deficit could be as high as £180 million and there has been a court ruling insisting all harbour authorities must pay towards it.

Fenland Council currently employs three pilots but, one is a member of the PNPF- if that changed then it would have implications for the council in relation to its deficit payments to the fund.

Finance director Rob Bridge told councillors the council faces “continuing uncertainties relating to the PNPF.

“Officers are currently assessing the operational, legal and financial implications and will report back in due course on the options available.

“However it is proposed that £500,000 be paid to a PNPF reserve fund to provide funding towards any additional financial implications.”

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Since 2006 there have been protracted legal arguments which resulted in the ruling that all competent harbour authorities should make contributions to the deficit.

Fenland Council is the statutory harbour authority for both Wisbech and Sutton Bridge ports and hopes to recover some money through statutory harbour duties paid by ships to both.

The report which outlines the council’s provisional outturn for 2014/15 - its income and expenditure for the year - says the council is looking at an overall under-spend of £6,605.

Mr Bridge said: “Given the scale of the challenges faced by the council, the financial position at the year-end represents a considerable achievement and demonstrates the focus from members and officers throughout the council in delivering the required savings.

“As a result of continuing prudent financial management, the council is in a relatively strong position to deal with the significant ongoing financial challenges over the medium term.”