Steelworkers bused to Westminster for crunch DB transfer meeting

Hannah Godfrey reports...

Two coaches filled with steelworkers and their wives will descend on Westminster on 27 February for a three-hour summit with MPs and regulatory bodies to discuss their compensation.

Echelon Wealthcare managing director and IFA Alastair Rush and Clarke Willmott solicitor Philippa Hann, who have been assisting the steelworkers with their compensation claims, will accompany them, along with British Steel pensioner Robert Welch, who has been helping former colleagues with information relating to the scheme.

The steelworkers are due to sit in the largest committee room in Westminster Palace. Representatives from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) and Pensions Ombudsman have been invited along as well as a collection of MPs.

The three-hour session will include the steelworkers and their wives giving impact statements on how transferring out of the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS) has affected them.

Hundreds of steelworkers were given poor advice to transfer out of their defined benefit scheme a couple of years ago. Since then, many adviser firms involved in advising steelworkers have lost pension transfer permissions, while some have closed down altogether.

‘Fair and quick compensation’

Rush told PA he hoped the meeting would lead to the steelworkers compensation being calculated “fairly and quickly”, suggesting the FSCS and FOS had not ruled out amending the way the steelworker’s compensation is calculated.

Rush also said he would like to see more regulatory roadshows across Scunthorpe, Teesside, Port Talbot, Trostre and Newport – areas with steel sites or a high concentration of steelworkers.

The issue on how the steelworkers’ compensation has been calculated has been raised before following criticism it left them inadequately compensated. Following a visit to Westminster in 2018, the FSCS said it was willing to “look afresh” at some aspects of the redress calculation it applied to the steelworkers.

The discount rate used by the lifeboat scheme to calculate compensation, the lack of recognition of advice fees paid by the steelworkers, and the FSCS’s take on the value of the workers’ pension pots were the main areas of concern to the steelworkers and their representatives.

Following the 2018 visit to Westminster, the lifeboat fund topped up the compensation payouts of five steelworkers to the tune of £80,000 as a result of a recalculation of the compensation.

Nick Smith, MP for Blaenau Gwent – a constituency with a high steelworker population – told Professional Adviser: “This meeting will be an important opportunity for steelworkers and their families to talk directly to the key regulators and agencies about the problems they have faced as a result of poor financial advice and pensions misselling.

“They will have lost thousands of pounds of their hard-earned money and I know that, for some of them, the losses could be even higher than that. The financial and emotional toll that this crisis has taken on steelworkers and their families has been extremely heavy and it’s essential that they get the support and the advice that they need to work through it.

The Welsh MP said the meeting would also cover the lessons that can be learned from the British Steel saga, and “what the government, regulators and other primary agencies need to do to drive the sharks out of the pensions waters”.