The next General Election in the UK is scheduled for 7 May 2015. That date can’t come soon enough, bringing a little respite (if only temporarily) from what seems to be some sort of popularity contest between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Pensions Minister.
The Chancellor surprised many with the ‘freedom and choice’ agenda he unveiled in the 2014 Budget. These changes have met with popular approval. However, the fundamental issues of adequate retirement provision have not been addressed by these measures. The Budget changes were followed up with corresponding amendments to the tax code. One likely group of beneficiaries of the Chancellor’s actions is the Independent Financial Adviser community, given the increased range of options savers have following the aforementioned developments.
The Minister has garnered a slug of headlines too, most recently with the proposal to permit annuitants to sell-on their annuities. The proposal, much like its counterpart on the ‘defined ambition’/shared risk front, is intuitively appealing but fraught with complexity. How many annuitants and/or their advisers are able to confidently assess the value of an annuity relative to its price? Being exposed to this risk once might be a necessary evil. If you make it out of the shark tank alive after the first swim, why go back for a second dip?
A number of the changes that this Government has made to the pensions regime will have long-term benefits, particularly the measures related to transparency and governance. It’s a pity that these meaningful improvements have not enjoyed the full focus, both in terms of publicity and resources to support finalisation/implementation, they deserve due to the impact of the more populist announcements. Such are the realities of the political system, I guess. What is the likelihood of a more focused and stable pensions environment from 8 May, at least until the ballot box looms again?