Altmann dumps Webb’s CDC and pot-follows-member policies

The government has kicked pot-follows-member, defined ambition and collective DC into the long grass, saying it has other priorities to focus on that are more pressing.

In a written statement issued today Baroness Altmann says implementing state pension reform and the auto-enrolment peak years are bigger priorities.

The announcement signals a switch away from key priorities of Altmann’s predecessor Steve Webb, who had championed all three policies. The move has drawn flak from the TUC, which argues collective DC is an opportunity to cut costs in the delivery of pensions and increase payments.

Altmann said: “The new State Pension comes into payment from April 6 Next Year. This reform will bring much-needed clarity to a system that few people truly understand, and will reduce the need for pensioner means-testing. Alongside this, over 5.4 million employees have been enrolled into a workplace pension by around 60,000 employers, dramatically increasing the number of people saving for later life. However, they represent around only three per cent of employers, as large and medium-sized firms were first to implement automatic enrolment.

“The Government’s priorities are to carry through those important reforms to ensure they are a success. This means new State Pension being delivered as smoothly as possible and small and micro employers getting the help and support they need as they meet their automatic enrolment duties.

“Government and the pensions industry are also currently working through the changes following from the new pension flexibilities which allow scheme members to have more freedom and choice about how and when they withdraw their pension savings.

“All these reforms will increase the number of people saving into workplace pensions, introduce new freedoms allowing savers to access their cash, and implement a new State Pension that will be far easier to understand in the future. However, we are conscious of the need to ensure Government, providers, employers and members are able to focus on these changes to ensure their success.

“That is why we have decided that the time is not right to implement defined ambition, collective benefits and automatic transfers. The time is not right to ask the pensions industry to absorb the new swathe of regulation that would be needed to make such further reforms work effectively. The market needs time and space to adjust to the other reforms underway and these areas will be revisited once there has been an opportunity for that to happen.”

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The TUC is deeply disappointed by the decision to postpone the introduction of collective defined contribution (CDC) pensions. The result will be to leave too many savers relying on poor value old-fashioned defined contribution schemes. While we welcome Baroness Altmann’s continued support for collective schemes, we do not agree with her decision to halt work to introduce it.

“Dutch and Canadian workers already enjoy collective schemes which could boost workers’ pension savings by 30 per cent over conventional defined contributions schemes. In shelving this good work, the Minister has denied British workers the opportunity to make the most of their hard-earned pension savings.”

Margaret Snowdon OBE, Director, JLT Employee Benefits, said: “Automatic transfers was fatally flawed from the outset, so it is great to see the pensions minister making a tough but pragmatic call.  The cost of proceeding would have been very high for little benefit to anyone.  Common sense has broken out.”