Field hits out at appointment of new TPR chief exec

The Pension’s Regulator’s new chief executive Charles Counsell will have “a long way to go” to prove he can transform the regulator, Work and Pensions Committee Chair Frank Field has said.

According to Field, the appointment is “unlikely to leave unscrupulous company directors quaking in their boots”, noting that Counsell was part of the regulator’s board while both BHS and Carillion ran their pension schemes into the ground.

Counsell, currently chief executive of the Money Advice Service, was announced as the successor to Lesley Titcomb today, 18 December, having previously worked at the regulator as executive director of automatic enrolment.

His comments come as it emerged that both the government and TPR turned down a request from the Committee to facilitate pre-appointment scrutiny of the incoming chief executive.

Field said: “We wish Charles Counsell well in his new role. But this appointment is unlikely to leave unscrupulous company directors quaking in their boots.

“As someone who was part of TPR’s board while it failed to prevent the directors of BHS and Carillion running their pension schemes into the ground, he will have a long way to go to demonstrate that he really is the new broom that’s so desperately needed.”

In May, Field wrote to then Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey asking whether TPR’s appointment would be subject to pre-appointment scrutiny, who rejected the proposal.

Last month, Field asked the same question to TPR chair Mark Boyle, who said it was a matter for government.

Field proposed an oral evidence session with the “preferred candidate”, after which the Committee would produce a report.

He added that TPR “would of course be under no obligation to take our views into account”.

Counsell, who will take up his new role in April 2019, helped the regulator to design and implement its auto-enrolment programme.

Titcomb announced her departure in May following three years in the role, to focus on spending more time with family, friends as well as taking up other opportunities.

Under Titcomb's leadership, TPR has also increased proactive case work by 90 per cent, using more powers and testing powers that were not previously used, set up an authorisation scheme for master trusts and redesigned a new approach to regulation to enable quicker interventions.

However, following high profile pensions cases including the collapse of Carillion and the British Steel Pension Scheme and BHS schemes before this, the regulator has been largely criticised for failing to act earlier.

Commenting on his appointment, TPR chairman, Mark Boyle, said: “I am delighted that we have appointed someone of Charles Counsell’s calibre to drive forward our significant change programme.

“I know that Counsell will lead the organisation with his trademark energy, determination and passion. Charles is a delivery-focused leader who gets the job done which is exactly what we need at this crucial time.”

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