Pensions Minister Steve Webb reassures savers on first day of pension reforms

Critics point out that just hundreds of advisers have been available to help people make decisions about their futures

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The Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, has played down fears that new freedoms handed to millions of savers yesterday will leave them at the mercy of fraudsters and unscrupulous financial advisers.

Over-55s were handed the right to cash in their pensions, instead of having to buy an annuity, under reforms announced by the Chancellor last year.

The changes have been broadly welcomed, although experts warn that savers could be taken advantage of. JLT Employee Benefits has claimed that more than £50bn of defined contribution pension pots are at risk from scams offering people inflated returns on their money.

Critics point out that just hundreds of advisers have been available to help people make decisions about their futures, including through the Government’s free Pension Wise service.

However, Mr Webb told the BBC that yesterday was “a starting gun, it’s not a deadline”.

“We’ve created a website and trained hundreds of people to answer the phones. We’ll be monitoring it on a daily basis but there are plenty of people to give people the guidance and information they need.

“By setting people free we also want them to make good choices and that’s why Pension Wise has been set up.”

Financial advisory Hargreaves Lansdown said it recived more than 150,000 requests for information about the new pension changes over the past year.

Tom McPhail, head of pensions reseach. said: “Relatively few people are asking to take all their money out. In the main we expect it to be at the smaller end of pension pot sizes.”

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