Julian Knight: Don't expect Hain to clean up Brown's pensions mess
Sunday 02 December 2007
The Government should publish its Pensions Bill this week, shaking up workplace schemes with the advent of personal accounts.
However, the Bill is unlikely to do anything to address two major pension problems. First, by saving into personal accounts, some people will bar themselves from receiving benefits such as the pension credit. In other words, they would be just as well off, or nearly as well off, if they didn't save at all. The Government is being warned now that it is storing up a huge mis-selling scandal.
Second, the 125,000 people who lost their pensions after the collapse of their company schemes are unlikely to find fresh help. The Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) set up to pay pension benefits to these people is bureaucratic, slow and inadequate.
Pensions minister Mike O'Brien (pictured) is bright, humane and, unlike some of his predecessors, actually knows his subject. However, he and his boss, Peter Hain, have little say because the means-tested benefits trap and the FAS were, ultimately, the constructs of the then Chancellor and now embattled Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.
Watchdog cops out
Every week I promise myself that I will leave the Financial Services Authority (FSA) alone. Last week I was doing well in my "think happy thoughts about the FSA" exercise. I got as far as Wednesday.
At that point, the FSA released its annual review of the websites of financial firms. It found that a quarter of them were "misleading" and unclear. The FSA says consumers using these sites to make crucial financial decisions and buy products are at risk.
Now this is the third year running in which the FSA has found the websites at fault. What does it propose to do? Fine or name and shame the wrongdoers? Not a bit of it. The FSA's Dan Waters says another review will be carried out next year and, if failings are found, "action" will be taken.
It really is hard to think happy thoughts when you see such cop-out regulation.
Close to crashing?
Apparently, if you're a homeowner, you have lost around 65 today. Why? Nationwide says that house prices are falling by 0.9 per cent a month, equating to some 2,000 or 65 a day knocked off the value of an average-priced home. New mortgages are at a three-year low and surveyors say buyer enquiries are plummeting.
Interestingly, an estate agent I pass on my way to work every day has just closed its doors for good.
Estate agents need churn to survive, so logically they will get sellers to cut their prices. Meanwhile, the credit crunch means people looking to remortgage will not get a good rate. What's more, energy bills look set to rise by at least 10 per cent (see page 17) and council tax will inevitably go up.
In short, families' finances could be stretched next year. Even the 2p cut in basic-rate income tax planned for April will be clawed back through the abolition of the 10p starting rate and national insurance changes.
All in all, I'm not saying there is going to be a crash in 2008, but we may get as close to one as we have been for the best part of 20 years.
Tennis star is set to marry his long-term girlfriend, Kim Sears
10 tips for taking out a personal loan
Simon Read: There may be trouble ahead for cohabiting couples who don’t make a will
Money Insider: Would £150 make you switch banks?
Gold-plated pensions – the key to retirement freedom?
Bargain Hunter: Find the deals that have real value beneath the Black Friday hype
- 1 'Kidnapped boy may have been abused and murdered by VIP paedophile ring,' say police
- 2 Ridley Scott on Exodus: Gods and Kings casting: 'I'm not going to get it financed if my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such'
- 3 Girl, 7, gets Tesco to remove 'stupid' sign suggesting superheroes are 'for boys'
- 4 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
- 5 'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Exclusive: UK approved £7m Israeli arms sales in six months before Gaza conflict
iJobs Money & Business
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Langley James : IT Support; Helpdesk, VMware; Manch...
£35000 - £450000 per annum + £3k car, £70k ote: h2 Recruit Ltd: Do you want to...
£Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Prestigious financial institution seeks to...
£Negotiable: Citifocus Ltd: Experienced operational risk professional with ban...
Day In a Page
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
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
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
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens