The Government Actuary’s Department (GAD) supplied analysis and expertise in support of the government in a court case of national financial significance.
The claimant, Ms Catherine Harvey was the unmarried partner of a deceased member of the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) who’d left work in 2003 and died in 2016. The LGPS will pay a survivor’s pension to a co-habiting partner but only if the member was in employment after 2008.
Ms Harvey contended that the refusal to pay her a pension amounted to unlawful discrimination and a breach of her human rights. So, she applied for a judicial review against the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and the London Borough of Haringey.
As part of the government’s defence, MHCLG asked GAD to estimate the potential costs to the taxpayer of introducing survivors’ benefits for unmarried partners in the LGPS. GAD’s expert witness worked out that making these changes would cost from £600 million to £1,100 million. Further analysis from GAD showed the cost could rise to £4.5 billion for all public service pension schemes.
The case was heard over 2 days in the Royal Courts of Justice. The government defence team included policy officials and lawyers at MHCLG, litigation experts from the Government Legal Department and counsel.
The High Court dismissed the challenge. The judge, Mr Justice Knowles, took issue with the claimant’s assertion that the costs were tiny, compared to the size of the overall scheme. In the judgment he stated: “the broader impact on the public purse, and on other LGPS members, if the claimant were to receive the benefit she contends for, would be very significant.”