David Prosser: Pensions - the impossible dream
Saturday 26 November 2005
In just four days' time, Adair Turner will deliver the final report of the Pensions Commission - his long-awaited verdict on how Britain's pensions crisis might best be solved. But while the Turner Report is an important piece of work, in that it could frame the shape of the UK's pensions system for the next 30 years, its publication on Wednesday is bound to be something of an anticlimax. We know what it will say and if the stories which emerged this week are true, we know how the Government will act - by ignoring it.
The Commission's interim report, published last year, spelled out the choices we now face: to work longer, save more, pay more tax, or accept a lower standard of living in retirement.
Next week, Turner will explain what these choices mean in practice, and what policies we must adopt to cope. But the trouble with these grand visions is that they assume everyone fits into the same picture. And the reality of pension reform is that the "national consensus" on pensions, famously sought by the former pensions minister David Blunkett, is an impossible dream.
In any system, there are winners and losers. Currently, for instance, those who do not have sufficient income to make very significant private pension savings lose out. The state safety net - comprising the basic state pension and the pension credit - does not deliver a generous standard of living. But make modest contributions to a private plan and you'll do yourself out of pension credit altogether.
Any new blueprint for pension reform, such as the Turner Report, is bound to create similar injustices. For instance, while white-collar workers doing jobs that are not physically demanding may be happy to work on beyond age 65, that's not true of blue- collar staff, who may struggle to find employment in their sixties.
These issues are so difficult that a Government fudge was always inevitable. John Hutton, the cabinet minister now in charge of pensions following the untimely departure of Blunkett earlier this month, has followed his predecessor's example by calling for a national debate on pensions - it's a tediously obvious delaying tactic.
The problem for Hutton is that while many voters have, in fact, made it clear what they want, he does not have the power to deliver or the nerve to say no.
For starters, people want a higher state pension - perhaps a citizen's pension that would pay a decent level of income to all pensioners, irrespective of the National Insurance contributions they have made. They also want their employers to do more. But above all, people want an end to all these reports and national debates.
The row which threatens to blow up if the Chancellor bins Lord Turner's reportmay well run on for many years to come. This Government has been in power for eight years, yet it has, so far, been unable to forge the consensus on pensions to which it keeps loftily aspiring. Don't expect anything to change after Wednesday.
* My plea two months ago to parents with unspent child trust fund vouchers seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Take-up of the scheme - in which children born since 1 September 2002 get cash from the Government to invest - fell to its lowest level last month, according to the Building Societies Association.
Forgive my lack of originality, but I'm making the same plea again today. If you're one of the million or so households that has so far failed to invest the child trust fund vouchers you have received, for heaven's sake, get your act together. It is free money and your children are missing out.
10 tips for taking out a personal loan
Simon Read: Frozen in time - the expat British pensioners who deserve a better deal
Simon Read: If this is BT's idea of 'simple', beware if it gets complicated
Donald MacInnes: My wasted hours in the retail deserts of Dixons-Carphone
Pension firms must ask consumers more questions, says City Watchdog
- 1 King Salman: Just five days in, Saudi Arabia's new king has already overseen a beheading
- 2 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 4 Presidential optical illusion offers clues to how brain processes faces
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Louise Mensch says 'F**K YOU' in explosive tweets about David Cameron, Saudi Embassy and the Queen over King Abdullah tributes
iJobs Money & Business
£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Technical Report Writer is re...
£16500 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Finance compa...
£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...
Day In a Page
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village