Tuesday, 25 April 2017

    Now is not the time for cheap sensationalism

    Hugh Nolan says the election must not drown out sensible debate

    I recently stumbled across a social media thread on the latest longevity projections and foolishly wrote a comment clarifying the good news that people are actually still living longer than ever before, even though the rate of improvement has slowed down. I quickly discovered that this qualifies me as, at best, an apologist for the Tory war on old people that is clearly deliberately designed to kill off non-productive members of society.

    hugh nolan

    The level of ignorance, prejudice and paranoia shown by the responses were astonishing, with people apparently convinced that life expectancy has reduced by 10 years in the last generation, that our government deliberately poisons its own citizens with fake “vaccinations” to keep death rates up and that Arsenal will still finish above Spurs in the Premiership.

    There will be a temptation for politicians to tap into these strong reactions to energise supporters

    The serious lesson here is that pensions is an emotive issue for people and as we approach the imminent General Election there will be a temptation for politicians to tap into these strong reactions to energise supporters and attract floating voters. Jeremy Corbyn’s claims that austerity is killing off our pensioners will play well with his fan base even if the Conservative manifesto again commits to maintain the unaffordable triple lock throughout the next Parliament to bribe the grey vote.

    George Osborne showed enormous political acumen with his hugely popular ‘freedom and choice’ reforms that incidentally also generated earlier tax receipts for the government. That ideological drive for personal responsibility may yet prove to be short-sighted though, having skipped any consultation and exposed huge numbers of savers to the risk of running out of cash if they live longer than expected.

    Pensions are a long-term commitment and it’s dangerous to play short-term political games

    Pensions are a long-term commitment and it’s dangerous to play short-term political games with the fundamental basis of our financial security in retirement. The Green Paper is a superbly balanced consultation and the recent Cridland report was well-considered and eminently sensible. It’s great to see this thoughtful and careful attitude to policymaking replacing opportunism and political expediency but there is no guarantee that this will continue.

    I’d like to see a political conversation about pensions that builds a cross-party consensus on key issues to give us stability, security and sustainability. The success of auto-enrolment shows that this can be done and the industry can play a part by standing by the facts rather than engaging in cheap sensationalism. It’s easy to grab some votes with allegations about Sir Philip Green ripping off pensioners but the real story is the superb benefits available from DB schemes that are mainly funded by the evil corporations, as well as the fantastic protection from the Pension Protection Fund when things do go wrong.

    Hugh Nolan is president of the Society of Pension Professionals

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