UK - The Whitehall power struggle which threatened to ensnare Alan Pickering's Simplification Review has moved decisively in favour of the Treasury, consultants fear.
They believe Alistair Darling’s move from the Department for Work and Pensions and his replacement by Andrew Smith – who was Chancellor Gordon Brown’s deputy at the Treasury – could make the review a “damp squib”.
Smith has taken over at the DWP after Darling moved to the Department of Transport in the wake of the resignation of Stephen Byers.
Many of the changes hoped for from Pickering’s review are believed to be unacceptable to the Treasury.
Deloitte & Touche head of investment services Tony Osborn-Barker believes many will see Smith’s appointment as a “sinister” move by the Treasury to “quash any radical thought” on pensions policy.
He also attacked the government for moving Darling to the DoT and claimed that the government treated the position of DWP head as a “caretaker” position.
Aon Consulting head of research Simon Martin said: “One of the criteria for measuring the success of the Pickering review would be how much legislation gets taken off the statute books.” In light of Smith’s appointment he speculated that the review would now only be a “damp squib”.
He explained that both the Treasury and the Inland Revenue had a “vested interest” in maintaining the status quo on pensions.
Martin also attacked the government’s record on pensions. “It always says it’s supportive of pensions, although when you look at the evidence it arguably hasn’t been,” he said.
However, the Society of Pension Consultants president Jane Samsworth said that while she was concerned at the loss of Darling at “this pivotal time”.
And she believed that this was an opportunity for Smith to disprove the idea that the Treasury was anti-pensions.
She said: “This is an opportunity for someone with a Treasury background to give the lie to that impression.”
NAPF chairman Peter Thompson said: “The NAPF is sorry that Alistair Darling is moving on but we look forward to working with Andrew Smith at this challenging and difficult time for the pensions industry.”
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