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Welfare Reform on the Web (October 2004): Pensions - UK

ACT, MR. BLAIR, OR LABOUR MIGHT BE PENSIONED OFF

F. Field

The Times, Sept. 21st 2004, p.18

The article argues that the present system of means-tested benefits for pensioners is unsustainable because it acts as a disincentive to saving and because sustaining it will push up taxes. It calls for an immediate increase in the basic state pension. In the longer term, it proposes the establishment of a universal protected pension by merging the national insurance pay-as-you-go pension with a new funded scheme to guarantee 25% of average earnings.

ACTUARIES' CHIEF URGES PENSION INCENTIVES

N. Cohen

Financial Times, Sept. 28th 2004, p.2

The head of the Institute of Actuaries has argued against compelling people to save for their retirement. Instead, he favours the introduction of generous incentives such as offering £2.00 from the government for every £3.00 contribution made.

COMPULSORY PENSIONS "COULD BE A VOTE LOSER" SAYS THINK TANK

P. Inman

The Guardian, Sept. 20th 2004, p.24

The Fabian Society has warned that forcing employers to make pension contributions for their employees could lead to wage cuts. It calls instead for reform of the complex system of means-tested benefits for pensioners.

GOVERNMENT PENSION CLAIMS ARE FALSE, SAY ACTUARIES

N. Montagu-Smith

Daily Telegraph, Sept.14th 2004, p.29

In April a government minister told the Commons Committee scrutinising the Pensions Bill that there would be no losers as a result of new powers under Section 67 which allow Trustees to retrospectively alter benefits for members of final salary schemes. The trade body, The Actuarial Profession, now says it is impossible to alter pension benefits without making someone worse off.

LABOUR'S PENSION PLANS ATTACKED

T. Eaglesham

Financial Times, Sept. 15th 2004, p.1

Government is proposing to force employers to allow members to nominate half of the trustees of occupational pension schemes which could hasten their decline. Ministers are also not minded to heed calls by employers for an increase in the state retirement age.

(See also: The Times, Sept. 15th 2004, p.12; Daily Telegraph, Sept. 15th 2004, p.8)

LIB DEMS: WE'D RAISE STATE PENSION 30PC

N. Montague-Smith

The Daily Telegraph, Sept. 7th 2004, p.27

The Liberal Democrats announced plans to reform the state pension system by:

  • raising the basic pension from £79.60 to £105.00 per week to replace the present complex system of means tested benefits;
  • abolish the requirement for people with personal pensions to buy an annuity by the age of 75.

MEASURES TO GET MORE STAFF INTO OCCUPATIONAL SCHEMES ANNOUNCED

B. Hall and N. Timmins

Financial Times, Sept. 28th 2004, p.2

The Pensions Bill before Parliament gives ministers the power to require employers who make substantial contributions to their pension schemes to enrol employees. Staff would retain the right to opt out, but would have to take active steps so to do. Research suggests that take-up of occupational pensions can rise from fewer than 50% to over 90% where employees are required to opt out rather than opt in.

OECD SAYS PENSION POLICY PUTS GROWTH AT RISK

D. Turner

The Financial Times, Sept. 24th 2004, p.1 and 5

The article calls for a higher basic universal state pension in Britain, as the present means tested benefits for pensioners discourage saving. It recommends scrapping the mandatory retirement age and encouraging older people to carry on working. It warns that Britain should not permit Incapacity Benefit to be used to fund early retirement.

PENSIONS CLAUSE MAY GIVE £10BN BOOST TO SAFETY NET

N. Cohen

Financial Times, Sept. 27th 2004, p.1

The Pension Act 1995 provides for the payment of "deemed buy-backs" of state earnings related benefits for people who contracted out of the second state pension and instead put money into occupational schemes. This clause could release £2bn to £10bn of public funding to help people whose occupational pension schemes have collapsed due to employers' insolvency.

PENSIONS POLICY IS BEING SEEN AS LONG-TERM LOSER

N. Cohen and B. Hall

Financial Times, Sept. 15th 2004, p.3

There is widespread criticism of the government's policy of raising the income of the poorest pensioners through means-tested benefits on the grounds that it is discouraging saving and that many pensioners do not claim. There is also concern about the collapse of many under-funded occupational pension schemes.

SMALLER COMPANIES "DISCOURAGE PENSIONS"

N. Cohen

Financial Times, Sept. 29th 2004, p.1

A study by the Pensions Institute at Cass Business School has shown that many finance directors of SMEs are not convinced that pension schemes help to attract and retain staff. Workers are also sceptical about the value of defined contribution schemes. Companies actively discourage participation in schemes to limit costs while offering the "window dressing" of pension provision.

SUCCESSOR FACED TURMOIL OVER PENSIONS AND INVALIDITY BENEFIT

N. Cohen and D. Turner

The Financial Times, Sept. 7th 2004, p.2

The article discusses the challenges facing whoever succeeds Andrew Smith as the Work and Pensions Secretary. The state pension system is under strain due to increased longevity and may require a hike in taxation to keep it afloat financially. Many occupational pension schemes are under-funded and in danger of collapse.

THREAT OF 1½P ON TAX TO PAY FOR PENSIONS

P. Webster, G. Duncan and C. Buckley

Times, Sept.13th, 2004, p.1&2

Measures to tackle the pensions crisis under consideration by the government includes:

  • a hike of 1½p in the pound in national insurance contributions to fund higher state pensions;
  • compulsory contributions to a second state pension and private pension;
  • allowing people to receive part of their pension while working beyond the retirement age of 65;
  • scrapping an array of means-tested benefits to fund a higher basic state pension.

UNIONS NOTCH UP PENSIONS VICTORY

Anon

Labour Research, Vol.93, June 2004, p.9-10

The TUC is calling for a new deal for pensions, including:

  • a new occupational pensions settlement based on compulsory contributions from employers and employees;
  • the basic state pension to be linked to earnings;
  • urgent action to help women who face lower pensions in retirement.

WATCHDOG ATTACKS OLDER WORKER POLICY

D. Turner

Financial Times, Sept. 16th 2004, p.4

The government's policy for employment of older workers is in disarray due to:

  • disagreements between ministers over if and when retirement should be allowed;
  • the very large number of older workers on incapacity benefit;
  • the very large number of economically inactive older people;
  • lack of training and high turnover of job centre staff.

WHITEHALL FACES DEMANDS TO RESOLVE PENSIONS CRISIS

N. Montague-Smith

Daily Telegraph Sept. 9th 2004, p.36

Government is under pressure from pensioners' groups to raise the basic state pension to reduce older people's dependence on means-tested benefits. At the same time, a survey by Mercer, the human resources group, has shown that the proportion of companies with open final salary pension schemes has fallen to 38% this year from 56% in 2002.

YOU'VE DONE QUITE WELL, MR. BROWN: BUT WHAT ABOUT PENSIONS?

N. Collins

Daily Telegraph, Sept. 28th 2004, p.22

Private and occupational pensions in the UK are in decline due to:

  • poor stock market performance;
  • the tax on dividends to pension funds introduced by Chancellor Gordon Brown;
  • pension credits, which are a disincentive to saving.
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