Council pension fund earns two national awards

The Lancashire County Pension Fund's investment strategy has won a national pensions award, named Pension Fund of the Year at the LAPF Investments Awards as judged by a panel of industry experts.

Lancashire County CouncilIt also won Investment Strategy of the Year and was highly commended for Investment Performance of the Year.

The LAPF Investments Awards recognise the best in the UK Public Sector market and have been running for ten years.

The awards are sponsored by LAPF Investment Magazine, a specialist publication which focusses on the local government pension schemes.

The Lancashire County Pension Fund is administered by Lancashire County Council, on behalf of a wide range of public sector organisations including the county council, district councils and non-uniformed members of the fire and police services.

County councillor Kevin Ellard, chair of the Pensions Fund Committee, said: "The pension fund has built a team of investment professionals with strong backgrounds in rates, credit, real estate, infrastructure and private equity. Building this team has taken time, but they’re now showing strong results.

"We're proud of the work done by the pension fund team, especially on investments, and it's pleasing to be well-recognised within our sector. Unlike the traditional consultant-led model of local government pension schemes, Lancashire has an in-house team with high-quality investment capability.

"The in-house team pioneered an approach of direct investment, through partnership with selected industry experts, who then manage the assets in question. This professional approach is working well and delivering strong returns. In the year to 31 March 2015, the pension fund delivered a 14.87% return on assets. The FTSE delivered just 5.8% over the same period.

"This fund also has a target to invest 12.5% of the fund into infrastructure, including a significant amount in Lancashire itself. This will help to support regeneration and economic development, including locally."

The pension fund broke new ground last year by bidding for the Government's 40% stake in Eurostar, reaching the final round of the process.

The pension fund's varied investments include a residential block on the M4 corridor, a hotel in Stratford, East London. It also recently acquired the new Premier Inn hotel and restaurant in Blackburn.

Other investments include a portfolio of landfill gas collection assets for electricity generation in the UK and further landfill investments in the USA. It has also purchased two biomass power plants in Australia, which run on sugar cane and wood by-products and waste.

The fund has also started to support development schemes within its own property portfolio including the student accommodation scheme developed by Portergate Properties on Friargate in Preston.

The scheme has invested in social infrastructure, partnering with social housing experts and a real estate fund manager to increase the supply of affordable shared ownership housing in the UK. Lancashire recently negotiated a ground-breaking partnership arrangement with the London Pension Fund Authority - which is designed to deliver savings on costs, without losing the autonomy and local accountability of the individual schemes.