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“Cruel” Government called on to do more

The government had a huge opportunity to redeem its pensions credibility in the eyes of the public this week by accepting the cross-party amendment to provide quicker help to victims of occupational scheme collapses.

Unfortunately, it easily defeated the amendment that would have offered immediate help to thousands of victims, many of whom are near or already in retirement and are desperately in need of assistance.

Pensions consultant Ros Altmann has branded the Government’s extra support for occupational scheme collapse victims “the cruellest possible way” to help people.

Altmann says the extra help announced by the Government was simply political spin that will not end the suffering of many of those who lost their savings.

She says the priority must be helping those pensioners who need the money now but Altmann told Money Marketing that waiting for the results of the Young Review, committing unspecified sums and failing to move Financial Assistance Scheme administration to Pension Protection Fund mean victims will be “strung along yet again”.

She says some victims are terminally ill, and some have already died, and those who need the help cannot wait for the final results of the Young Review, which could take a year, and then rely on the Financial Assistance Scheme to deliver prompt payment.

The Bill now returns to the Lords and both the Tories and the LibDems have indicated they may again vote for the amendment and potentially inflict another defeat on the Government.

Of course the Government can force through the Bill if required but this would cause early embarrassment to the Brown administration.

This week we’ve also seen the outgoing Pension Ombudsman David Laverick have a dig at proposals to merge his office with the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Laverick, who completes his six-year term on August 31, says in his last annual report that the Government’s acceptance of the Thornton Review’s recommendation to bring together the PO and FOS is flawed.

He says: “I shall be glad not to be further involved in the matter.

“There is much I admire in the FOS but the scale of its operations puts it outside my own concept of how an ombudsman should look.

“I shall watch with interest whether the Government is indeed prepared to allow disputes of fact and law relating to pension schemes to be dealt with according to the much less regulated procedures used by the FOS than has been the policy over the period when there has been a PO.”


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