Culture charity in Luton set to be reported to regulator over late pension fund payments

A charity that manages libraries, museums and arts venues in Luton is set to be reported to a national regulator over three consecutive late payments to its pension fund.

Thursday, 12th November 2020, 5:31 pm
Updated Thursday, 12th November 2020, 5:34 pm

A meeting of Bedfordshire local pension board this week heard that The Culture Trust Luton (also known as Luton Culture) is “continuing to manage its cashflow on a day to day basis, and have continued to be late in settling their contributions.”

Julie McCabe, the fund administrator and chief officer for corporate finances and pensions at Bedford Borough Council said: “They continue to have cashflow issues.

“When I had written the report there were contributions outstanding, however those have now been paid and they are making an effort to make their payments, but they are not within the timeframes of the regulations.”

She said The Culture Trust Luton had not applied to defer payments and therefore late payments put them in breach of the rules.

She added: “We have now had three months in a row where the employee contributions haven’t been paid on time and therefore we feel that is a breach we should be reporting to the Pensions Regulator.”

The committee oversees the fund, its investments, and payments for 72,551 local government and other members, including 18,160 current pensioners.

Luton Cllr Jacqui Burnett (Lab, Lewsey), said she was a “bit concerned” as the trust had received funding and yet “weren’t able to pay a preferrential creditor.

The Hat Factory is one of the venues run by the trust

“My view is we have got to report it because it’s more than three months. It’s been going on for about six months.

“They have still got their bills to pay so I think it is the right thing for us to do to follow due process.”

Julie McCabe said: “For several months they have paid on time but they have been consistently late.

“It is an ongoing issue but the pont is it has been three consecutive months for employee contributions.

“That we feel is the point at which we should report unless there are extenuating circumstances or factors that we are not aware of.”

Gerard Moore, the independent chair said: “If we were satisfied that the tests set by the regulator were failed we should not hesitate in reporting.

“I fully expect that the regulator (The Pensions Regulator) would be expecting us to be reporting cases like this.

“The regulator may be more undestanding but nevertheless what I think we are looking at here is an underlying trend that’s been there for a while and it has been causing anxieties. They have been breaching the regulations.”

Luton Culture is an independent charity which looks after cultural provision in Luton.

Set up in March 2008 it has nearly 300 employees on its books at eight libraries, Stockwood Discovery Centre, Wardown Park Museum and The Hat Factory.

A local democracy reporter attempted to contact The Culture Trust Luton by email and phone, and by messaging some of the trustees but no-one had responded by the time of going to press.