Rushcliffe Borough Council debates flex after Pru’s exit

Rushcliffe Borough Council has been forced to re-examine the viability of its flexible benefits scheme after its provider Prudential Flexible Benefits Solutions withdrew from the market.

The council said it will continue its scheme in the present form until July, after which date Prudential will no longer support the plan.

Tom Grainger, head of HR at the council, said: “We are looking to see what our alternatives are. It was a good scheme and it was beginning to take ground, so we have now set up a working group to see if the benefits we got from Prudential could continue in a different way.”

Although Rushcliffe Borough Council has appointed a working group to look for alternative ways of providing flexible benefits, an internal reorganisation at the council could restrict what it is able to offer.

“We are in the middle of reconstruction so our workforce may fall dramatically, so we’re wondering whether it would be the right thing to do now,” explained Grainger.

Two possible options for the council include sourcing another provider or managing the benefits scheme in-house.

Grainger added that the cost of continuing to offer a flex plan, particularly if the council used another external provider, may be too high. Owing to the council’s re-organisation, the funds used to cover the costs of its current flexible benefits scheme may have to be reallocated.

“There aren’t any real benefits for doing it in-house, it’s just whether we want to use the cost of a scheme in another way, that’s the main thing,” explained Grainger.

He added that the council was disappointed when Prudential Flexible Benefits Solutions pulled out of the market in December last year. The business had launched two years earlier, but Rushcliife Borough Council was its only client.

“It was a great surprise to us in view of all the work that we had done to get flex launched in a public sector organisation,” added Grainger.

The council was one of the first public sector organisations to launch flex when it did so in July 2006. Previously, it had offered staff access to disparate benefits options, such as discounted medical insurance and a sports and social club, rather than a more formalised package.