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Spend & Save

Simon Read: Osborne's statement may offer little sense for the savers

Comment: The Coalition is in danger of wrecking people’s long-term plans for retirement

With his usual sense of mis-timing, George Osborne will present his autumn statement next Wednesday – in the first week of December. With the frost settling on the ground as I write, what can we expect from the Chancellor?

There have been rumours about further changes to the pensions tax system. Specifically we're told there may be a reduction in the annual pension tax allowance, down to £40,000 or even £30,000 a year.

On the face of it the move would only hit high-earners who can afford to stash that amount into their pension each year. But having already cut the annual allowance from £255,000 to £50,000 last year, the Coalition is in danger of wrecking the long-term savings plans of many - albeit wealthy - people who have bothered to plan ahead for their retirement.

You may not have much sympathy for those who can afford to save such sums, but continual tinkering with pensions by the Government is getting annoying. At a time when it's more important than ever to help people understand why they need to plan ahead for their financial future - as the state sure won't help much - regular changes to the rules don't encourage us to think ahead with confidence.

As Tom McPhail of Hargreaves Lansdown puts it: "Every time the Government raids our long-term savings to fix its short-term economic problems it discourages more people of working age from saving for their retirement."

But Osborne does have a chance to help people build up a decent nest egg by changing the tax-free ISA rules. At present half the £11,280 annual allowance must be put into stocks and shares. But many people are put off stock markets by wildly fluctuating performances. Saga's Ros Altmann says savers shouldn't be forced to gamble on stocks if they can't afford losses. Allowing the whole amount to be put in cash makes sense. But when has sense ever been Osborne's watchword?