The London Assembly has been told the Pensions Regulator “has significant concerns” about the decision to withdraw funding from tourism agency Visit London, a move which led to its collapse into administration.
As previously reported, Visit London Limited (VLL) was placed into administration on April 1st following the establishment of London & Partners which merged the responsibilities of promotional agencies Visit London, Think London and Study London into a single body.
Visit London’s entering administration has caused concerns over the future of its pension scheme and could see members become reliant on the Pension Protection Fund for assistance.
In a letter to the Assembly’s Economy, Culture and Sport Committee and published by the Assembly, the regular says it was “greatly concerned by the withdrawal of funding from VLL, as the company is a sponsoring employer in relation to the Scheme.”
The letter confirms that the regulator held a meeting with representatives of London & Partners, the GLA and a pension scheme trustee prior to Visit London entering administration at which it says the trustee “outlined the impact on members if VLL was to become insolvent”.
The letter goes on to state: “Despite this clear explanation of the impact on members, no party took steps to prevent this situation arising.”
Visit London pension fund is currently being assessed for its eligibility for assistance by the PPF.
The Pensions Regulator says it has “significant concerns in relation to the decision to withdraw funding from VLL” and says “the decision to fund L&P rather than VLL appears to detrimentally affect the likelihood of full benefits being received by members of the VLL section of the Scheme.”
The letter confirms that the regulator “has a number of ‘anti-avoidance’ powers under the Pensions Act 2004 which enable it, in certain situations, to require entities which are associated with or connected to a sponsoring employer to put in place financial support for a scheme or make a cash payment up to the scheme’s buy-out deficit.”
The letter concludes by confirming the regulator “has begun an investigation to determine whether it would be appropriate to exercise these powers in this case” but stresses the investigation is “at a very early stage”.
The regulator has written to interested parties as part of the investigation.
At a meeting of the Assembly committee yesterday it was confirmed that meetings would be held between representatives of the Mayor and the pension scheme trustees although the Mayor’s regeneration and enterprise advisor Sir Peter Rogers stressed no guarantees about a remedy could be given.
A spokesman for the Pensions Regulator confirmed to this site that the letter “is the most recent document in the public domain” and said the watchdog has “nothing further to add at this time.”