Ahead of the forthcoming pension freedom reforms in April, Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, has called for even further changes to the UK pension industry, to make life easier for retirees. Speaking at The Resolution Foundation in London, Mr Webb advocated for the creation of a dedicated Government Pension Department, amid a raft of further suggested reforms based on his experiences to date.
Speaking about the gaps he sees still existing in later life planning, Mr Webb said:
“Why don’t we have a department for pensions and the ageing society? We could deal with pensions but what about long-term care and long-term savings and seeing the person rather than the policy area?”
In a wide-ranging speech, Mr Webb suggested increasing workplace pension scheme contributions dependent on what a person’s earnings are, thus taking some people beyond the current 8% of the automatic enrolment scheme. A simpler flat tax relief rate of 33%, Mr Webb said, would also assist people in planning their retirements. “Rather than just float around the edges of tax relief, let’s do it properly”, he is quoted as saying.
The comments come just ahead of a time when the biggest changes to pensions in a number of years are due to be introduced. But Mr Webb claimed that his time as pensions minister had shown him “how long it takes to do stuff”, claiming that any new pensions minister after the general election in May would need to “sit down, get all the dirty laundry out and build a consensus”.
The minister’s comments also paid focused attention to the fact that, currently, the remit for helping people in old age is split between his office, The Treasury and the Department for Health, leading to his calls for a Pensions Department. The idea behind the department would be that it would get rid of the “silo-isation” of helping retirees, drawing together ideas of care, financial planning and, of course, our individual pension arrangements.
As Mr Webb points out, the ideas are likely to take some time to filter through government but, with an election around the corner, and pensions a traditional focal point for party politics, you can never be too sure just what might find its way into legislation!