Lovewell’s logic: Where does Brexit fallout leave UK pensions?

Debbie Lovewell-Tuck

Ever since the EU referendum result and David Cameron’s subsequent resignation as prime minister, barely a day seems to have gone by without news of political departures and appointments.

Last week, it was the turn of Ros Altmann to leave her post of pensions minister. In itself, there is nothing unusual in this. After all, all new prime ministers naturally want to build up their own ministerial cabinet, as Theresa May is doing.

What caused numerous raised eyebrows in this case was the appointment of Richard Harrington as parliamentary under secretary of state for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), as Altmann’s replacement.

The official party line from the DWP is that, despite the more junior title, this position will cover exactly the same policy brief as that of the former minister for pensions. However, many in the industry, including former pensions minister Steve Webb, have expressed concern that Harrington’s appointment is representative of a demotion for pensions under May’s government.

While the pace and frequency of change in the pensions arena has caused much frustration and stress over the past few years, there can be no denying that these reforms have been largely positive steps. Auto-enrolment has increased the number of people saving into a pension scheme in the UK, while the pension freedoms have brought the potential to offer much-needed choice to members at retirement.

In recent months, many employers – and indeed many providers and consultants – I have spoken to have expressed a common desire for a break from pensions change and reform in order to properly embed and maximise those that have already been introduced. However, I doubt many will have wanted focus to move away from pensions altogether.

Only time will tell whether this will prove to be the case.

Debbie Lovewell-Tuck
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