The South Yorkshire Pension Fund was created in 1974 as part of the local government reorganisation of that year. The new fund brought together funds previously run by individual predecessors of the four South Yorkshire Districts together with funds transferred from the former West Riding County Council Fund and the West Riding (Local Authorities) Joint Superannuation Committee Fund. The new South Yorkshire Metropolitan County Council was designated as the administering authority under the 1972 Local Government Act and the Council gave responsibility for the Fund to the County Treasurer. The new County Council continued to manage the bulk of the fund through an internal investment team in the same way as the previous West Riding County Council had done for many years.
The County Council continued to manage the Fund until the reorganisation brought about by the Local Government Act 1985 which abolished the 6 Metropolitan County Councils created in 1974 and the Greater London Council. Initially responsibility for the Fund passed to the South Yorkshire Residuary Body (based at Regent Street in Barnsley) which was responsible for ensuring the orderly wind down of the County Council’s affairs. In the other 5 metropolitan counties arrangements were put in place for one of the district councils to become responsible for the running of the pension fund. Uniquely in South Yorkshire the District Councils preferred to create a free standing Joint Authority and the South Yorkshire Pensions Authority came into being on 1st April 1988 which continued to be based at Regent Street in Barnsley. At this point the Fund had an asset value of £491m with around 50,000 members and fewer than 100 employers.
Later the Government would use a similar model to create the London Pension Fund Authority to manage the former GLC pension fund, however, the majority of its Board are appointed experts rather than elected councillors, leaving South Yorkshire unique as a democratically accountable single purpose pension organisation.
The new Pensions Authority continued to manage the investment of the bulk of the Fund internally.
In the early 1990’s South Yorkshire was one of the first funds to join what became the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum which focussed on responsible investment and collective shareholder action. This involvement has continued ever since reflecting the increasing importance attached to this area by the Authority.
In 1993 the part of the Fund that related to the employees of former municipal bus companies was transferred to a separate South Yorkshire Transport Fund allowing employees to remain in the Local Government Pension Scheme. This Fund continued to be invested and administered by the Pensions Authority on an agency basis and for this reason the Authority became a regulated investment manager under the various different regulatory bodies which eventually became the Financial Conduct Authority. This was a unique situation at the time and remained unique in the Local Government Pension Scheme in England and Wales until the Authority deregistered in 2018, following the winding up of the Transport Fund.
The Transport Fund only had one employer (First Group) and in 2017 they decided to consolidate all their various LGPS liabilities in one fund. They chose to do this in the Greater Manchester Pension Fund and in October 2017 the assets and liabilities were transferred to the Greater Manchester Fund and the Transport Fund was wound up.
In 2015 having been members of the original CLASS consortium (Computerised Local Authority Superannuation System) since the 1970’s South Yorkshire changed its pension administration system from Axis (the successor to CLASS) and moved to Civica’s UPM system. This was a major change which resulted in significant challenges in order to maintain the high performance standards which scheme members had become accustomed to.
In July 2018 more than 50 years of internal management of the South Yorkshire Pension Fund came to an end when the investment team and the various equity portfolios transferred to the Border to Coast Pensions Partnership as a result of the Government’s pooling initiative. For the first time since 1974 the majority of the Fund’s investments are now managed externally.