A government that represents the wider population is ideal, but surely asking for individual budget recommendations is a bridge too far

At first glance, the government’s latest call for us all, individually, to let them know what we want to see in the next budget could seem like a triumph of democracy. But  in reality this just a sham, from a party that wants to seem like it cares what we think.

electioneering-index

The UK population in 2013 was 64 million. Even stripping out all those too young to reasonably have an opinion on such matters, it seems hugely unlikely that the government has the resources, or indeed the desire to plough through 60 million or so replies to see what we want.

Of course, the entire population responding to an online budget survey is unrealistic; we dream of such turnouts when it comes to actual elections. And I very much doubt George Osborne is expecting such an overwhelming response.

And what of the people who do reply? Most likely these will be those with a serious vested interest, people who are bored online or the kind of scary crackpots who think the internet is their playground.

What the industry wants more than anything is to be left alone”

It’s therefore hard to conclude anything other than that this is a cynical attempt from the Conservatives to seem like a government of the people that is listening to our wants and needs.

Given the huge changes in pensions recently, what the industry wants more than anything is to be left alone. To be given some time and respite to let the new freedoms bed in and adjust to the new world we live in.

I suppose it is possible that government will take time to look through the ‘budget submissions’ they do get, but will we really want to them to form the basis of government policy?

Certainly the industry would baulk at the thought of an economic context set by the personal whims and desires of the limited few who will bother to get involved in this kind of online social democracy.

The electoral mood is front and foremost in our politicians’ minds”

This all fits into a wider governmental problem, which should be a cause for concern for those with a interest in pensions. The electoral mood, as shown by this survey, is front and foremost in our politicians’ minds.

In theory, this is no bad thing, but it’s important to remember that the electorate as a whole has already voted on the issues that are important to them. And the purpose of a budget is to provide a considered, balanced economic plan for the next year.

On a personal level, it’s easy to come up with a list of things I’d like to see in the budget: more affordable housing, a freeze on beer duty, doing something about the rising cost of transport. But these are the views of 20-something living in London, and issues that need to be seen within a wider economic context.

Populism is rife in politics, and it is this populism that leads to issues such as the constant tinkering with tax relief, and the ill thought out introduction of new freedoms with a serious dearth of checks and balances.

This latest move implies we’ll need an independent budget commission too”

The last budget in particular, was hugely popular with consumers, but was implemented with no industry consultation, leading to concerns about pensions scammers and trustees struggling to make changes with no time to do so.

If the Conservatives (perhaps worried about the chances of effective government with such a small majority) are going to rely on outright displays of courting public opinion, then the pensions industry has much to be afraid of.

Pension industry bodies like the NAPF are already calling for an independent retirement commission to remove short-termism and hopefully stop politicians messing about with pensions to court the grey vote.

Unfortunately, this latest move implies we’ll need an independent budget commission too.

Or perhaps we should all respond to the survey, asking the government to stop prioritising short term populism when they should be focusing on long-term economics.