Radical pensions policies played no part in the main party manifestos, but some of the smaller contenders had a few tricks up their sleeves, says Greig McGuiness
While all of the UK’s key political parties have featured pensions in their election manifestos few of them are saying very much. Perhaps the absence of radical policies reflects a need for a period of consolidation following the many changes we’ve seen over the course of the last government.
There remains, however, a number of key areas on which I would have liked to have seen more detail including tax treatment of pension savings, combating pension scams and the future of auto enrolment.
In analysing the manifestos I start with the Conservatives who say very little about private pensions other than reiterating the changes that they have already legislated for. Their plans to make income tax a devolved matter in Scotland and England (and then presumably all home nations) could cause unintended complications for tax relief on pension contributions.
Labour has confirmed its support of “greater flexibility for those drawing down their pension pots” but is also calling for greater guidance to be available. Interestingly, the Labour manifesto does not put in writing pre-election suggestions that other pledges could be funded from a reduction in pension contribution tax relief.
The Lib Dems also believe there is further scope to drive down costs while retaining value”
In fact, there is no reference to tax relief or the life time allowance but, without providing any detail on how it would deliver, there’s a promise to “reform the pensions market so that pension providers put savers first and protect customers from retirement rip-offs”
As you would expect with the incumbent Pension Minister on board, the Liberal Democrat manifesto has a little more focus on this issue and it is, surprisingly, the only UK wide party to refer to auto enrolment, a policy it claims to be proud of, and pledging to roll out in full.
The Lib Dems also believe there is further scope to drive down costs while retaining value and, in doing so, encourage people to save more. The party has re-iterated its intention to establish a review to consider a switch to a single rate of pensions tax relief (30 per cent has previously been floated).
Perhaps not surprisingly the Scottish National Party has focused on state benefits in retirement making similar statements on the triple lock and single tier state pension as the other parties however, they are asking for a review of plans to increase the state pension age particularly in Scotland where average life expectancy is much lower than other parts of the UK.
The SNP are not setting the heather alight with policies on private pensions. They continue to support the role out of auto enrolment and in principle are in favour of flexibility although with a health warning regarding the need for adequate advice and support and a continued drive to identify and target unfair, hidden charges.
Perhaps not surprisingly the Scottish National Party has focused on state benefits”
While I continue to question the credibility of Ukip in general, the party has, perhaps surprisingly, proposed some interesting pension policies. This includes a pledge to allow the state pension to be taken earlier than state retirement age with a reduction for early retirement.
The party has also criticised the new Guidance Guarantee, proposing to double the budget to improve the quality of guidance. It is also the only party who have included a policy for dealing with pension scams. I do however remain sceptical that its plans to legislate against pension cold calling would be particularly effective.
Few people, myself included, ever anticipated that radical pensions policies would become an abiding feature of this general election and we were right (who says politicians never meet our expectations?) After five years of monumental upheaval the underplaying of this issue will be welcome by most within the industry as we look to bed in the many changes.
Greig McGuinness, Trustee Representative, Dalriada Trustees