Crunch time

This month’s Budget will show just how strong this coalition government thinks it is

So we have a new government, and parties with widely differing views on pensions sharing the ministerial offices down at the Department for Work and Pensions.

Of the views on pensions of new secretary of state, Ian Duncan Smith, our industry knows very little. It is true to say that Nigel Waterson’s
failure to hang onto his Bournemouth East seat has caused more than a little disappointment from across our community. Garrulous, funny, but most importantly carrying the benefit of many years tracking the problems facing pensions issues, his expertise will be missed.

In the pensions minister seat is the LibDem’s Steve Webb, whose pre-election position can best be summed up as complete abolition of higher rate tax relief, immediate access to tax-free cash and a cool view of Nest so long as the problem of a lack of a living state pension remains unfixed.

The LibDems have already accepted that a universal citizen’s pension will have to be put on hold until the public coffers are back in a reasonable state, but its radical proposal on higher rate tax relief, which was meant to be used to pay for it, may make the cut after all as
Osborne looks for quick wins.

It is true to say that Nigel Waterson’s failure to hang onto his Bournemouth East seat has caused more than a little disappointment from across our community

Most pensions professionals will be pleased by the positive noises on keeping Nest on track, having got this far down the line. Meanwhile, with
the FSA possibly releasing its next batch of rules on the Retail Distribution Review by the end of the month, we may all be able to go on holiday
with a reasonable expectation of what the second half of the year will look like.

But, as ever, the real business will all come out in the Budget.

How strong the coalition government thinks it actually is will be revealed by how radical it is prepared to be in this month’s Budget changes.
With the bookies offering short odds on another election before the end of the year, it may be that those in power at present do not want to upset too many of their voters right now.

Either way, we should know whether this government is the real thing or a dress rehearsal before the end of the month.

John Greenwood, Editor john.greenwood@centaur.co.uk