Spoiler – I’m not a political person. I generally think I wouldn’t trust any politician as far as I could throw them. So please don’t think the following is a comment on the ability of one party or another….. it is just a plea…….
Despite having two young kids who make going back to work for the New Year seem like having a rest, the New Year always gives me a chance to reflect.
It lets me think about what I want to achieve in the coming year. That sub-20 placing in the Bristol Ashton Court ParkRun that seems like a distant dream. The wish not to get dropped by my triathlon and cycling friends over various events in the summer. The wish to achieve something in life and work which is measurable – if only I really knew what that something was.
It is with dismay that I’m watching the news about the Cabinet Reshuffle. It puts exactly where the UK stands on long-term pensions policy into perspective.
We are told that Justine Greening, the Education Secretary, quit because she refused to take the role at the Department of Work and Pensions.
We have Esther McVey, formerly a children’s TV presenter, in the role which Mrs Greening refused.
As I’m writing, Guy Opperman is Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Pensions and Financial Inclusion. He has been in post for six months. That could all change by this afternoon. I was struggling to name him without reference to Google if I’m honest. Wikipedia does say that “Opperman’s interests include fuel poverty, vocational education, the future of the Falkland Islands, assisted dying and prison reform”. The Financial Times in September 2017 concluded that Opperman was the latest “in a line of pensions ministers with no interests in pensions stretching back to the 1990s” (Personally, I think that is a touch harsh on Steve Webb – and no, I’ve never voted for a Liberal Democrat).
I think it is safe to say we know from all of the above precisely where pensions stand in the Government’s priorities.
Yet all the while we are sleep-walking into a pensions and long-term care crisis. The days of 2/3rds at 65 final salary schemes are all but dead. Replacement rates to defined contribution schemes are not going to provide for people in their old age. The PPF is warning of potentially thousands of schemes and therefore millions of members not getting the benefits which they were due.
Wouldn’t it be good if those with the power to decide who takes pension policy forward start to think long-term with a view to addressing some of these fundamental issues, and not use the position as a stop-gap to better things or the door? Isn’t it about time the average tenure for MPs in pensions positions was greater than six months?