UK roundup: Wedgwood, Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council, Morrisons
UK - The UK culture minister has entered discussions with several charitable organisations - including the Heritage Lottery Fund - in an effort to save the Wedgwood Museum’s rare collection of pottery, under threat as the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) seeks to resolve £134m (€160m) worth of outstanding debt.
Following the collapse of Waterford Wedgwood Potteries, the scheme’s sponsoring employer, the UK lifeboat scheme was forced to step in, with a High Court ruling recently finding that the museum’s collection was right to be seen as an asset of the insolvent company.
Pensions minister Steve Webb has previously ruled out any changes to the law that could have “significant repercussions” for the protection regime.
But he did say that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) was in discussions with PPF chair Lady Barbara Judge on how to avoid a break-up of the collection.
A DCMS spokesman confirmed reports over the weekend that culture minister Ed Vaizey was in discussions with a number of charitable organisations.
“The minister has met with several key cultural organisations - including the Art Fund, Arts Council England, the V&A Museum and the Heritage Lottery Fund - to discuss how to save this collection for the nation,” he said.
“This is a complex situation that may take some time to resolve. However, we are confident the cultural world can work together to seek a viable solution for the collection that enables it to remain together and on public display.”
Meanwhile, supermarket chain Morrisons has announced the launch of a cash balance pension fund for its employees, as it prepares for the introduction of auto-enrolment later this year.
With more than 130,000 employees, the company will be forced to comply with the soft compulsion regulation from October this year.
It said it decided to launch the cash balance fund because it offered a “significant” improvement over the existing defined contribution plan.
To encourage savings take-up, it decided it needed to offer a more understandable and predictable pension scheme than its current DC offering - with the cash balance option allowing for a measure of security.
In a statement, it said: “Morrisons will manage and underwrite the investment to produce a guaranteed fund upon retirement, delivering a predictable pension pot for its employees irrespective of fund performance.”
It added that all employee contributions would be matched.
Norman Pickavance, head of human resources, said allowing for a predictable pension would demonstrate the retailer’s commitment to its workers, while union USDAW said it supported the new guarantee “wholeheartedly”.
Calls to clarify what level of guarantee beyond contributions Morrisons would offer were not returned at time of publication.
The company currently also has two defined benefit schemes - one from its acquisition of rival retailer Safeway, as well as its own legacy scheme - which at the beginning of last year reported a combined surplus of £38m.