Belfast Telegraph

Decisions on pensioners set for back seat amid political wrangling, experts warn

Crucial decisions affecting current and future pensioners could now take a "back seat" as they are overshadowed by political wrangling following the General Election result, experts have warned.

The Conservatives' proposals around the reforming of social care funding will "almost certainly" be kicked into the long grass, it was suggested.

Tom Selby, a senior analyst at AJ Bell, said a hung parliament is "the worst possible outcome for pensioners and people saving for their retirement".

A government response to former CBI director general John Cridland's report into the state pension age had been due in May.

Mr Selby said: "It means that key decisions around the state retirement age, the state pension triple-lock, social care funding and pension tax relief are all going to take a back seat while the wheels of Westminster slowly turn."

He continued: "A clampdown on pension scammers was also pushed back as a result of the election.

"The vital measures set out in the original consultation - which included a ban on cold-calling - need to be implemented as soon as possible to protect savers from fraudsters, but it looks like politics will get in the way of this important reform for a while longer."

Sir Steve Webb, a former pensions minister who is now director of policy at Royal London, said: "A minority government will struggle to pass any major reforming legislation which creates gainers and losers.

"Reforming the funding of social care will almost certainly be kicked into the long grass as will any big shake-up of pension tax relief.

"If the Conservatives are relying on the DUP for a majority, even policies such as ending the triple-lock or means testing the winter fuel payment will be called into question.

"The most we are likely to see is further tinkering as the Government looks to fill its budget shortfall with further salami slicing of pension tax relief for higher earners."

The Association of Consulting Actuaries (ACA) said the election result could mean that "the brave decisions that are needed to address policy challenges affecting employers and the public in the pensions, savings and social care arenas will not be grasped".

Bob Scott, ACA chairman, said: "On private pensions, we wanted the 2017 review of auto-enrolment (AE), scheduled for later this year, to encompass a plan to increase minimum contributions gradually over the years ahead.

"A review that just examines the scope of AE and minor policy details would be a major lost opportunity. AE contributions need to increase markedly, otherwise we are simply building a retirement income crisis for the future."

He continued: "On social care, a consultation is certainly needed so we can fix on a sustainable policy for decades ahead. We believe this will involve a range of solutions suited to individuals of different ages and with different financial backgrounds and requirements."

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