Blog: Kicking the can down the road

When I started in pensions, there were several issues facing the industry and its members that needed to be addressed. These included the Pensions Bill, gender equality and the infamous tapered annual allowance.

It’s nearly a year and a half on from my first day, and these same issues continue to circulate. There have been promises and delays, proposals and consultations, but no action. Of course, the government has been a bit busy recently, when it’s actually in session, but it has been kicking the can down the road for far too long on these issues.

The NHS pension scheme has seen large-scale opt outs, with over 200,000 staff leaving the scheme in the past five years, primarily due to tax issues surrounding the tapered annual allowance. The government has offered various proposals to fix the problem but has refused calls to scrap the allowance.

Its refusal comes despite all the other avenues it has explored being dead ends and repeated calls from senior industry members to finish the controversial tax policy.

This is not the only can that the government is kicking down the proverbial road, and the industry has been calling for a much-needed Pensions Bill to help legislate for and resolve issues since before I even considered pensions as a career path.

Part of the bill is the inclusion of legislation that will bring forward another long-awaited saving tool, the pensions dashboard. This could be a key device to improve the engagement and savings levels of millions of savers around the UK, yet it has also been pushed back for years.

Having first been suggested in 2014, and being scrapped and brought back in the process, it seems as if the dashboard may be on the horizon. But we believed that over a year ago too.

The latest rumblings from the government is that the bill will be included in the next Queen’s Speech, which it has scheduled for 14 October, although it had already been delayed from the summer of 2019.

This government has also been accused of “dragging its heels” on rectifying gender inequality in the pensions system by Royal London director of policy and former Pension Minister, Steve Webb, after it announced that it would not be taking action in response to inequalities revealed in a review published in 2014.

These kinds of delays and general inaction from the government on pensions have become commonplace as the government deals with more ‘pressing’ concerns like Brexit, while not actually doing anything to resolve those issues either.

The government inaction has not been helped by the continual revolving door at the Department for Work and Pensions, which has seen seven Work and Pensions Secretaries since 2016.

With the constant changing of staff, no wonder nothing substantial has been achieved. Once someone finally has their feet under the table in the role, they either jump or are pushed.

With so many pressing concerns that need to be resolved, the chop and change attitude at the department is of serious detriment to the industry, and therefore savers, in the UK.

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