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Welfare Reform on the Web (January 2006): Pensions - UK

A challenge for the savings industry

M. Wolf
Financial Times, December 2nd, 2005, p. 19

The Turner Commission has proposes encouraging pension saving among people on low and average incomes through a government-run national scheme.  A large collective scheme would reduce administrative costs, and the author argues that the private sector should bid to run it!

Brown hints he will throw out pensions deal

A. Grice
Independent, November 29th 2005, p.18

Further negotiations with the unions are needed to confirm the agreement that public sector workers can continue to retire at 60.  The Chancellor is worried about the cost of the deal.  Blair and Hutton report no plans to revisit the deal, and left wingers warn of strong resistance to attempts to do so. Employers warn against the creation of an unacceptable two tier system where private-sector employees work until they drop to pay through their taxes for early public sector retirement.

[See also Daily Telegraph November 29th 2005, p.4]

The challenge of pension reform

D. Laws
Quality in Ageing, vol.6, Nov. 2005, p.4-16

The Liberal Democrats are proposing a citizens’ pension to replace the current state pension.  Entitlement would be based on residency rather than on National Insurance contributions, so that people would know exactly how much they would receive.  The Party also proposes a number of measures to encourage private saving and revitalise occupational pensions.

Challenge to keep pensions afloat

N. Timmins
Financial Times, December17th 2005, p.6

The Pension Protection Fund has published its final proposals for a levy on employers to finance its scheme for bailing out underfunded occupational pension schemes which cannot meet their liabilities.  It aims to raise £575m in 2006/07.  The size of the levy could be reduced if firms take steps to plug the holes in the funding of their pension schemes.

The generation game is rigged

A. Miles
Times, November 30th 2005, p. 18

Article looks at the pensions debate from the perspective of the young families struggling with the cost of housing and burdened with the expense of  supporting ageing population through high taxation while today’s property rich pensioners are given council tax rebates.

Grasp this historic plan for pensions

M. Wolf
Financial Times, December 1st 2005, p.21

Author argues that discussion about the Turner report on pension reform should focus on the affordability of the proposals and the suggested degree of compulsion to save.  Article finds that that the Commission’s proposals meet the current pension system’s main deficiencies of complexity, projected 70% means testing by 2050 with disincentives for saving, inadequacy for those, particularly women, inconsistently employed, collapse of occupational defined-benefit pension schemes, costs to individuals on modest earnings of setting up private pensions.

Let’s get one thing clear about the pensions crisis. There is no crisis.

J. Rentoul
Independent, December 1st 2005, p.35

Article explodes various myths about the alleged crisis in the UK pensions system.  Argues that:  1) there is no evidence that means-tested benefits act as a disincentive to saving; 2) current civil servants should be allowed to retire at 60 because it would be grossly unfair to change their implied contracts of employment; and 3) Chancellor Brown’s changes to the tax treatment of pension funds in 1997 hastened the closure of company final-salary pension schemes, but ended an unfair subsidy that mainly benefited the better-off.  Author argues that the fundamental question that should now be debated is the role of the state in encouraging people to save more for their retirement.

Means-tested pension credit did not reduce incentive to save, says study.

C. Giles
Financial Times, December 16th 2005, p. 6

Research commissioned by the Work and Pensions Department found that means-testing increases incentives to continue working near retirement age while not overall deterring savings. The NIESR findings, which oppose much popular thinking on incentive effects in the pension system, do not fully support Brown’s policies in long term, and sit comfortably with the proposals of the Turner Commission on pension reform.

The naked truth about pensions

P. Robinson
Public Finance, Dec.9th-15th 2005, p.22-25

Article measures the reform proposals of the Pensions Commission against the five tests the government will apply.  It concludes that the proposals encourage personal saving, and would be more generous to women and carers.  However, as means testing is retained, the plans would not necessarily protect the poorest.  The Treasury maintains that the Commission’s proposals are unaffordable, and they do not simplify the present system.  The long term sustainability of the reform package is also in doubt.

A new pension settlement for the twenty-first century:  the second report of the Pensions Commission

London:  TSO, 2005

The report calls for a major reform of the UK pension system to create a new settlement for the 21st century.  This settlement needs to: 1) deal with gaps which exist in the current system for people with interrupted careers and caring responsibilities; 2) prevent the spread of means-testing which will occur if present indexation arrangements continue indefinitely; 3) be sustainable in the face of rising longevity; 4) overcome the barriers of inertia and high cost which deter voluntary private pension provision; and 5) maintain employer involvement on good quality pension provision.  In order to achieve these aims the Commission proposes:

  • The creation of a low cost, national funded pension savings scheme into which individuals will be automatically enrolled, but with the right to opt out, with a modest level of compulsory matching employer contributions and delivering the opportunity to save for a pension at a low annual management charge
  • Linking the value of the basic state pension to earnings instead of prices.  This should prevent the spread of means-testing
  • Universal entitlement to the basic state pension based on residency not National Insurance contributions
  • Acceleration of the evolution the Second State Pension (S2P) to a flat-rate system
  • A gradual increase in the state pension age to 67 or 69 by 2050

(For initial comment see Financial Times, December 1st 2005, p..2-5, Independent, December 1st 2005, p.6&7; Guardian, December 1st 2005, p.16&17; The Times, December 1st2005, p.6-8; Daily Telegraph, December 1st 2005, p.1, 2-6]

The peculiar politics of pensions

P. Stephens
Financial Times, November 29th 2005, p.19

Reducing spending elsewhere to enable the government to pay more generous pensions without increasing tax should be at the centre of the debate, but what we have are political ego clashes. This opinion piece looks at the loss of government credibility over public pension provision and how Blair and Brown’s career concerns are clouding serious debate.

[See also Guardian November 29th, p.24]

Pension plan will raise tax by 4p – Brown

L. Elliott and P. Wintour
Guardian, December 1st 2005, p.1

Chancellor Gordon Brown has warned that the Pension Commission’s proposals would require a decade of higher taxation, but the Department for Work and Pensions and other senior government sources have challenged his figures.

[See also Independent, December 1st, p.9]

Pensioners blocked by failing helpline.

J. Davey
Times, November 29th p.48

One in ten calls to the Pensions Service helpline went unanswered, was abandoned or was blocked over the past two years.  The Liberal Democrats claim that problems with the helpline are deterring eligible people from applying for benefits such as the Pension Credit.

Political battle looms as Tories target chancellor.

P. Wintour and P. Inman
Guardian December 1st 2005, p.14&15

Summarises responses of the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats, the Labour government, the unions, employers and pensioners’ interest groups  to the Turner Commission’s proposals on pension reform.

Prescott in warning to unions over 85-year rule

A. Taylor & B. Hall
Financial Times, November 30th 2005, p. 2

A provision allowing local government workers to retire at 60 providing that their age and years in service add up to 85, may be scrapped for younger workers. Article also looks at the Civil Service pension deal and the quashed speculation about its reopening.

The State retirement age: misconceptions about retirement and the state pension

H. Zeilig, A. Turner and A.V. Salvage
Quality in Ageing, vol.6, Nov.2005, p.8-16

Research identified a range of common misconceptions about pension ages and retirement ages in the UK, perpetuated by the press and even by research organisations.  Misconceptions included beliefs that:

  • The UK has a state retirement age at which people are forced to give up work
  • A person must be retired to claim the state pension
  • The state pension must be claimed at 60 years for women and 65 years for men
  • The state pension is a fixed amount of money available to everyone

Turner plan faces hostile reception form savings industry

J. Daley
Independent, November 29th 2005, p.60

The Turner Commission on pension reform is proposing a state administered national pension scheme to which employers would only need to contribute a modest 3% of salaries.  This is likely to encourage companies to abandon more expensive occupational schemes. Article voices various industry concerns.

What’s the fuss? There’s no pensions crisis.

A. Kaletsky
Times, December 1st 2005, p.21

There is no country wide crisis in the UK pensions system. The impression of one is created by contending interest groups clouding the distinct issues which are disentangled by the Turner report on pension reform:

  • the demise of final salary pensions
  • the erosion of state pensions
  • the head room for other public spending, such as on health, that is given by maintaining that erosion
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