Posted: September 21st, 2015
David Thompson (Chairman), Gerald Mowbray (Secretary), Roy White (Treasurer)
Ken Hudgell (President)
Eric Newson (Vice President)
Michael Pickard, Chairman, Mirror Group Trustees Ltd
Iain Urquhart, Group Pensions Director, Trinity Mirror
Ralph Tomes, Secretary, Mirror Group Trustees Ltd
Alan Burns, C Director Trustee, Mirror Group Trustees Ltd
Chairman’s Welcome & Introduction:
David Thompson welcomed all members present and guests representing Mirror Group Trustees and Trinity Mirror.
DT thanked the Company for its generous support in again financing the cost of the hall for this AGM and for arranging the free printing and distribution of the latest AMP newsletter which had been delivered to some 7,000 pensioners
DT then invited Michael Pickard to address the meeting.
Michael Pickard Address:
MP said that he has always been aware of the importance of this occasion and that after 15 years since the terrible discovery of missing Mirror pension funds emotions are still raw. MP added that the he and the Trustees are fully aware of the need to ensure good communication between the Trustees and members. So MP sees this meeting as a very important opportunity of reporting on the stewardship of our pensions.
MP then referred to a press release issued recently by Mercer, a world-wide human resources organisation and specialising in pension advice. The press release included the following quotes:-
“Pension Fund Statements could shock members!”
“One in five members will learn that they would receive only 50% to 60% of their benefits if their scheme were to wind up immediately!”
So MP was very mindful that we are meeting today in the immediate aftermath of the issue of Summary Funding Statements to millions of final salary pension schemes like ours.
MP then emphasised that security of our pensions goes to the heart of the Trustees’ efforts to secure the long-term financial health of the MGN pension schemes. MP added that this stark Mercer warning must be seen in the context of important safety nets inherent in today’s pension legislation.
MP then described the additional benefits covered by the Government’s Pension Protection Fund.
MP continued by detailing the changes in investment strategy, the greater emphasis on Trustee governance and the updating of the Articles of Association that have been detailed in Pension News. The revised Articles of Association allow for a rebalance of B and C directors though MP doubted whether this would happen in the short term. MP stressed that, notwithstanding the increased pensioner/deferred pensioner make-up of the overall membership, all trustee directors had to act in the interest of all members.
In conclusion, MP stressed that there are no absolute guarantees for final salary pensions other than the ongoing financial well-being of the principle employer. However, MGN pension deficits are being reduced by the employer’s contributions and improved investment returns; and current legislation offers significant protection for our future pensions.
Paul Vickers Presentation:
PV confirmed that the Trinity Mirror Board continues to take a close interest in the affairs of the Association. This year there is a change as PV said that he had been a trustee for nearly thirteen years. However, PV stepped down as a trustee in December last year because recent legislation and regulations have made it much harder for main Board Directors to manage the conflicts that arise if they are also pension fund trustees.
PV expressed some sadness in this development for British pension funds as he thought that it had been helpful for pension issues to be represented in the boardroom.
However, PV continued by saying that we are very fortunate in having the present trustees as they take their responsibilities very seriously and give a geat deal of their time in protecting the members interests.
PV then gave details of the Company’s financial health by referring to the published financial results for the half year to end June 2006 and for the full year to end December 2005. At present the media is suffering a downturn in advertising revenues. However, the Company believes that it is part of a cyclical movement rather than a major structural change and expects a significant recovery during 2007.
PV then touched on the gradual decline in circulation figures, new regional title launches and the increased activity in on-line publishing – now more than 300 local and national sites. PV continued by referring to the recent news of a comprehensive Strategy Review of the overall business to be completed before the end of the year.
PV concluded by stressing that Trinity Mirror remains a very profitable and successful company. There are some short-term issues to address but the company continues to grow and develop and invest in its core brands whilst also diversifying onto other distribution platforms.
Ian Urquhart then advised that he had resigned as a trustee director earlier this year for the same reasons as Paul Vickers. IU added that he had joined MGN Pensions Department in 1994 towards the end of the long discussions with City Institutions that finally led to the 1995 Major Settlement. He had enjoyed his time as a trustee over the years since and reiterated PV’s confidence in the present Trustee Board to continue to look after the interest of members. IU then introduced David Astley as the new Group Pensions Manager and Carole McNamara as the new Pensions Administrator. DA would be responsible for ensuring that Trinity Mirror pension trustee boards took account of all the Pension Act rules and regulations.
Questions on Pension Funds & Company Reports:
DT thanked both MP and PV for their very informative presentations and opened the meeting for any questions to the company of trustee representatives.
MP confirmed that mortality rates used by the actuaries were being reviewed as people were living longer now.
MP advised that the difference in investment policies between the “Old” and “New” pension schemes is due to there being no active member contributions in the “Old” scheme and therefore the investment policy had to be more cautious.
Ralph Tomes advised that all new pensioners are giving information on the SERP changes that take place at the State pension age. IU added that the MGN pension schemes were now not able to contract out of the SERPS. In 1992 the decision was made to contract back into the guaranteed SERPS payments as future pension fund security was unknown at that time. The Government at the time gave a 25 year interest-free loan payable at specific rates per year.
Alan Burns added that dependents were no worse off after the main pensioner had died as a result of the contracting back into SERPS.
PV advised that the possible sale of the National Titles was included in the Strategy Review but no decision yet. PV added that he considered that national newspaper circulations would continue to fall and the aim was to slow down this decline and diversify – particularly into website publishing. PV confirmed that there had been little change in the Mirror’s market share over the last five years.
DT thanked all the speakers for their informative presentations and for answering the many questions from the Floor. The Meeting endorsed DT’s thanks.
The Company and Trustee Board representatives then left the Meeting at noon.
DT asked for a minute’s silence in memory of Bob Avery who had died soon after last year’s Scottish Annual Meeting and for all other AMP members who had died during the last year.
DT then said that there had been a lively committee this year and funds had increased again this year. However, the most important meeting is the AGM when members can have the opportunity of directing the next 12 months AMP activity.
DT then asked for formal approval of the appointment of Eric Newson as Life Vice President and this was unanimously agreed by the Meeting.
DT confirmed that 5 distinguished parliamentarians had accepted the invitation to become patrons of the AMP. Their role would be to represent AMP’s interests in Parliament should the need arise in the future when our pension funds were at risk again. Their patronage would also underline the status of AMP in representing MGN pensioners. Full details of the patrons had been included in the August/September 2006 Mirror Pensioner newsletter.
The Meeting endorsed the appointment of these patrons with thanks.
DT continued by appealing to those attending to go out and recruit new members as new members were needed each year to replace those that had died – an inevitable problem with a pensioner organisation.
DT concluded by saying that next year’s aims were firstly to closely monitor the Trinity Mirror Strategy Review conclusions and the actions thereafter and secondly to find new ways for increasing the AMP membership.
Roy White reported on the AMP financial statement for the year ending 31st March 2006 and which had been detailed in the latest Mirror Pensioner newsletter. The Balance carried forward was £44,957.26 – an increase over the previous year of £15,035.11.
The total membership was 2,264 slightly down on last year’s 2,330 figure. The recent Autumn newsletter response had added a further £500 in standing orders – half from existing members.
There were no questions from the Floor and the accounts were accepted.
GM gave apologies from Ken Hudgell, Eric Newson and Patricia Smyllie who were all recovering from recent illnesses and operations.
GM supported the Chairman is his appeal for more new members. GM reiterated his comments in the latest newsletter that some 10,000 of the nearly 12,000 pension fund members were pensioner and their dependants or deferred pensioner. Therefore there was a great opportunity to increase the existing membership figure of 2,264.
GM then referred to the Trustee Board representation and the continuing AMP aim to increase its pensioner/deferred pensioner members so that it better reflected the near 80% pension funds membership figure. Whilst the recently revised Articles of Association now include provision to allow more C Directors at the expense of B Directors the voting procedures seem to suggest that in practice the B directors would have to agree any change.
There was general support from the meeting that AMP should continue to pursue greater pensioner/deferred pensioner representation.
GM then referred to the recent newsletter and paid tribute to Caroline Cluskey and Brian Bass, the joint editors, for their efforts in again producing a very readable and colourful newsletter and which had again been distributed to all pensioners. Given the nature of a pensioner association it was difficult not to include the sad demises of members but GM believed that there had been a good balance of articles for all readers.
There was a good response from the Meeting and appreciation for the latest newsletter.
GM then referred to the declining attendances at AGM’s. Ken Hudgell had advised that the meeting had always been during the latter part of September as Tony Boram had been concerned that elderly pensioners need to get home in the light after some convivial relaxation after the meeting! The suggestion of delaying the meeting by a month to avoid the pensioner holiday season (after the schools had returned from the summer holiday break) was put to the Meeting. There was general agreement to the later AGM date.
GM reported that there were only 12 replies to the questionnaire in the Spring newsletter for a members social occasion. There was about 50% support from the Meeting for a lunch-time gathering in London. GM agreed that the next Committee would be asked to consider the merits of a social occasion for members.
GM then advised that the AMP website had recently been redesigned by Ray Weaver and there was a page for members’ usage. Some 50% of attendees indicated that they used the website.
Trustee Representatives Comments:
Alan Burns (C Director elected by pensioners and deferred pensioners) was invited by the Chairman to comment on the various presentations.
AB advised that he had not prepared any notes for the meeting but was pleased to be able to make a few comments.
AB referred to the changed investment policy detailed in the recent Trustee newsletters. AB stressed that the Trustees were constantly reviewing and questioning fund managers on the investment status.
AB then referred to GM’s comments on the Trustee Board representation. AB believed that there should be at least one more pensioner trustee on the Board and that we should not have to wait three years for the next formal elections. AMP needs to keep up the pressure for greater representation of pensioners on the Board. AB reminded the Meeting that Tony Boram had got the two pensioner/.deferred pensioner trustees on the Board originally although the Company had responded at the time by adding a further two trustees. AB added that pensioners were completely independent of company or trade union influences.
Finally AB asked that any later AGM date did not clash with Trinity Mirror or Trustee Board dates.
Election of Officers & Committee for 2006/2007:
DT advised that all the Committee were willing to stand again for another year.
It was proposed and seconded that the present officers be re-elected. Agreed unanimously.
It was also agreed that the present Committee be re-elected. Agreed unanimously.
It was also agreed that John Hemple be appointed auditor on the retirement of Eric Newson.
The Chairman invited any others interested in joining the Committee to contact him after the meeting. The Chairman then thanked the outgoing Committee for its support and work during the past year and which was endorsed by the Meeting.
The Chairman asked that if anyone had input or suggestions for future newsletters would they please contact BB or CC or any other member of the Committee. All ideas and contributions were welcome as it was the members’ newsletter.
The meeting ended at 12.35pm with a vote of thanks to the Chairman.
Estimated 70 members attended.
Subsequent to the meeting a member advised that he had not received the Chairman’s “Welcome to AMP” letter in the documentation given by the Pensions Office when he retired earlier this year. DT will take up this omission with Ralph Tomes and ensure that there were sufficient AMP welcome letters available for future retirees.
In addition, Derek Rogers agreed after the meeting had closed to join the Committee.