The Dorset County Pension fund now has a value of just over £3billion for the first time, up from £2.85 billion at the start of the last financial year.

More than 71,000 public sector works across the whole county rely on it for their pensions.

The annual report shows that its return on investments of 6 per cent was below the benchmark return of 7.4 per cent while over three years it returned 10.6 per cent, and 8.7 per cent over five years, both longer term figures marginally below the benchmark target.

The estimated value of the fund’s assets at 30 June 2019 was £3,085m compared to £3,023m at the start of the financial year. The quarter saw rises in all listed equities markets, which drove a rise in the value of the fund’s assets.

Over the last 12 months the fund’s investments have returned 5.7%, – below the Fund’s combined benchmark return of 6.3% but above the annual discount rate (or target rate of return) of 5.4% assumed by the actuary at the last valuation.

More than 70,000 public sector employees in Dorset and members of the fund – drawn from councils, colleges, schools, housing groups and other bodies including social care organisations.

At the end of the 2018-19 financial year the Dorset County scheme had 71,133 members – 25,068 paying in, 22,135 receiving a pension and 23,930 deferred members.

Membership of the scheme is 63 per cent female and has it has fourteen pensioners now over 100 years old.

During the year the fund had 5,339 starters and 5,459 who left the scheme.

Those who retire today, according to the statistics, could expect to draw their pension for 24 years if male and just over 26 years if female. For those retiring in 20 years’ time, assuming retirement at 65, another two years may be added for both genders.

Auditors say that the fund’s relative underperformance is partly a result of the high cash balances which we have been allowed to develop as part of cautious approach to the current market outlook.

Among the property purchases during the year was £8.9 million for Astra House in Harlow, a previous office block now converted to studio apartments and flats and 60 social rented homes in Buckshaw Village, Lancashire.