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Osborne must be bold on pensions guidance


There’s no two ways about it, Chancellor George Osborne’s Budget pensions bombshell was a bold move.

It will revolutionise pensions, giving people far more control over what they do with their money as they approach retirement.

But it is not a risk free move.

Those on the other side of the freedom/paternalism line the Chancellor drew through the middle of politics with the move have already warned about increased mis-selling as people suddenly find themselves with greater access to their wedge

But as we often hear, Osborne is keen on political strategy and so we have the guidance guarantee.

The prospect of criticism he has thrown thousands of grannies to the wolves – made real by memories of the mis-selling scandal that arose after his party decided in the late 1980s to allow people to contract out of Serps in favour of personal pensions – was quite possibly behind it.

Yes, Osborne has given people power over their savings, but he has also put a safeguard in place to protect them from an industry that isn’t exactly top of the pops at the moment. But, if he wants the political cover that could come from guidance, it has to be equally bold.

The number of commentators saying guidance cannot simply be a one-off conversation continues to grow, and it’s not just Labour MPs whose job it is to oppose – pensions minister Steve Webb said as much to the Work and Pensions select committee in April.

Next week’s proposals for the guidance guarantee will need to be big. They will need to give people – normal people, as well as the political and financial sets – enough confidence that they can have control over their money and not get fleeced.

If guidance fails to provide an adequate balance to Osborne’s radical pension freedom agenda, by the time the election comes around what at first seemed a strategic masterstoke could turn into a nightmare. 

You can just imagine (sort of) Ed Miliband riffing on the Bullingdon Boys giving people access to their money and then giving the party’s financial backers in the City freedom to missell. That is not the freedom Osborne imagined when he delivered his Budget speech.

Steve Tolley is politics reporter at Money Marketing


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  1. Dominic Embley 23rd July 2014 at 5:10 pm

    This week George Osbourne has given the green light to radical pension changes first announced in the March Budget.

    From April 2015 investors will have unprecedented freedom over how they take money from their pensions – they’ll even be able to take the whole fund as cash from age 55. The first 25% should be tax free with the rest subject to income tax.

    In my view, this is probably the most important pension news ever. It could affect every pension investor and create huge opportunity for companies wishing to enter the over 55s market.

    We will be running a survey next month to see what people will do with their pension pot. Through digital channels, IFA enquiries and Market Research interviews the results / insights will be ‘reported’ through our dashboard portal.

    The Consulting Pool

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