UK - The £2bn (€3bn) non-contributory defined benefit scheme for Bank of England employees faces changes as the bank expects pension expenses to soar.

The bank is currently negotiating changes to the 14,000 member final salary scheme with its staff, a spokesman confirmed to IPE.

He did not give any details of planned changes but said "the proposals cover the retirement scheme and the pension age" which currently stands at 60.

In the bank's annual report, the management pointed out the cost of pension provision had "risen sharply" to 41% of salaries because of "greater longevity and lower bond rates". Its target is to reduce it to 30%.

The Bank of England also has to plug a £300m whole in the pension fund over the next years so it has arranged to make by four annual payments of £52.m followed by six payments of £26.7m by 2014.

Earlier this year, rising pension cost led UK retailer WH Smith to close its defined benefit scheme.

In total there were 9,400 pension schemes closed to new members last year bringing the total to 22,200, according to new data published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) today.

7,320 out of the total number of 72,800 private sector schemes were closed to new members and new accrual increasing the total to 9,100 while the number of schemes winding-up now stands at 4,300 - 1,210 more than in 2005.

However, the ONS found 62% of active membership in open private sector schemes was in defined benefit schemes.

In total, including both closed and open private sector plans, 25% of pension fund members belong to a defined contribution scheme. And at the end of 2005 defined contribution schemes covered 15% of pension fund members.

The combined membership of public and private occupational pension schemes in 2006 was around 27.5 million.