With MP Richard Harrington replacing Baroness Ros Altmann in a more junior role, what should the under-secretary of state for pensions prioritise over the next year?
Harrington's appointment by the new prime minister Theresa May came after Altmann quit as pensions minister last Friday.
The roll-out of auto-enrolment (AE) is still ongoing, and pension experts believe this should be one of the government's top priorities for pensions, particularly in ensuring small employers and the self-employed get on board.
Fidelity International head of pensions Richard Parkin said the government needs to ensure contribution rates rise to the target of 8%, even if the rates are fairly low. He said: "We have to ensure AE is seen through. Getting people into a pension plan is the first hurdle to delivering good retirement outcomes. Fall here and we stand no chance of achieving our goals."
Barnett Waddingham senior consultant Malcolm McLean agreed, saying: "We have to sort out AE and make sure that continues to work. You have to increase contributions, but not make them too high and put people off from saving. There is a bit of a tightrope that people have to walk on. We also need to ask whether the self-employed can be brought in. AE is the key to the future."
2) PPF cap
The government has already delayed regulations intended to ensure pensioners receive higher payments from the Pension Protection Fund (PPF). The rules were supposed to be laid before parliament this week, and experts believe the regulation should be a priority so pensioners do not lose out on much-needed savings.
Altmann said the delay was "simply unfair", and added: "It is very disappointing that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has failed to lay the regulations that will allow pensioners to receive higher payments from the PPF. They should be laid immediately. All the necessary work has been completed. It is so disappointing that the DWP has failed to act, causing further unfair delays to those affected."
3) Pension freedoms
More work needs to be done to ensure pensioners are making the right decision when exercising their freedom rights, particularly with scams on the rise, according to McLean.
"We need to look at pension freedoms because people are possibly not doing the right thing by taking too much money and getting caught out on tax, or getting caught by scams. Many people would prefer to have a guaranteed income rather than freedoms, but don't like annuities. The whole system of annuities needs to be looked at, and perhaps the government needs to provide them."
Fidelity International added people need to be engaged with retirement long before they access their savings. Parkin said: "The work on implementing the Financial Advice Market Review and consolidating public guidance into a single entity are important steps in getting more support to more people when they need it most."
4) Tax relief
The government is being urged to carefully consider the implications of introducing a flat-rate of pension tax relief.
Parkin said: We'd encourage government to think long and hard before reopening the debate on tax-relief. It is probably a debate that needs to be had but we need to approach the challenge in a structured and thoughtful way unless we want to create even more uncertainty for pension savers."
Meanwhile, 21% of advisers believe a 25% flat-rate would discourage workers from saving into their pension pot, according to an Old Mutual Wealth survey of 219 respondents.
5) Lifetime ISA
There remain concerns the lifetime ISA (LISA) will replace workplace pensions. Old Mutual Wealth pension policy expert Jon Greer said: "Ahead of the referendum, the previous Chancellor, George Osborne introduced the LISA, widely believed to be a compromise policy introduced with a view to phasing-in a pension-ISA system.
"While the LISA will be a helpful savings vehicle for many people, there are major fears it will be used as a backdoor into a pension-ISA."
Meanwhile, Parkin believes the government should drop the LISA, at least temporarily. He said the Treasury should not rush in the savings scheme so it can ensure it is "right first time", particularly as the Treasury's focus may be elsewhere.
He said: "The new government's clearly got a lot on its plate at the moment. We do think there's scope to slow down on some things, most notably the LISA."
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