Archive for March 2011

John Griffin

1 October 2012 may seem like a long way away, but it is a date that should be etched in the calendar of employers of all sizes. From that date, employers will begin to be obliged to automatically enrol their eligible workers into a workplace pension arrangement.

The first employers to be affected will be the largest employers (those with at least 120,00 workers) but this will relatively quickly taper down to medium-sized employers so that, by October 2013, employers with only 800 workers will be obliged to comply with the new requirements.

Some of the issues employers will need to face include:

  • Associated increased costs
  • The position of existing pension arrangements or schemes
  • Views on different arrangements for different grades of workers
  • Comparing their overall remuneration package with that of competitors
  • The views of owners or shareholders

Combined with the reduction of the Annual Allowance from £255,000 to £50,000 from 6 April 2011, this makes it vital for all employers to review their pension arrangements.

Any employers ready to meet this challenge should contact Spence & Partners, whose consultants are highly qualified and proficient at providing advice and solutions to all pensions-related challenges that employers may face.  Working with the employer, we will be able to construct a plan which is fit for purpose and will ensure compliance with the new requirements.

In the first instance, you should contact Alan Collins, head of employer advisory services on 0141 331 9970 or email

Alan Collins

If asked about my political views, liberal is not a word that would ever feature in my response. No subscription to the Guardian newspaper here.

However, on reading the discussion paper from Philip Booth and Corin Taylor for the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) on “How the older generation should suffer its share of the cuts”, I have had to reassess my thoughts on the virtues of beard growing and sandals.

In short, the paper recommends the abolition of a number of benefits currently provided to older people, namely

  • Certain non-cash benefits (free bus travel, free TV licences and the winter fuel allowance);
  • Married couples allowance for older people;
  • The age adjusted tax-free income allowance; and
  • The earnings link to state pensions (which hasn’t even been re-introduced yet!);

The paper also recommends the state pension age is increased to 66 in 2015, a reduction in public sector pension contributions and an accrual rate of 1/45th for future build up of state pension entitlement. Wow – don’t hold back now guys, say what you really think!

Given the need to reduce the national debt, it is right that ancillary benefits paid to pensioners such as free bus travel and free TV licences come under scrutiny. However, it is unlikely that a government of any persuasion is likely to threaten the winter fuel allowance.

I welcomed the proposal in October 2010 to consider a universal state pension of around £140 per week and so would view the proposed use of an accrual system to be a retrograde step.

The comments on the triple lock of increases applying to the state pension seem flawed. Firstly, the price inflation element of the lock changes to CPI from 2012, which is expected to be less valuable than RPI. This fact seems to have been missed, though it does not appear to affect the estimated cost saving.

The estimated cost saving on excluding the link to earnings also assumes wage growth of 2.5% per annum above inflation, which is certainly higher than I would expect – therefore the saving is likely to be significantly less than the reported £5.6 billion per annum.

Some of the other figures seemed to have been produced like a rabbit out of a hat. For example, apparently a conservative estimate of the annual saving on increasing the state pension age to 66 by 2015 would be about £5 billion – this figure is provided without any justification.

The paper does make some bold suggestions in the pensions arena which are certainly worthy of further consideration. Firstly that the full costs of all pension promises should be revealed. I agree that the current cost is being pulled down by over optimistic assumptions about future investment return and await with interest the release of Lord Hutton’s report on 10 March. The removal of final salary linkage is not enough to stem the tide of rising costs and any move to Career Average accrual is only postponing more difficult decisions for a later date.

Secondly, the paper recommends that individual organisations and councils are allowed to negotiate individual pension arrangements with their employees. This would certainly test the value of pension provision – how much more salary would a public sector employer be prepared to offer in return for lower pension contributions? If NEST is enough, then why shouldn’t organisations be allowed to offer more salary in return for lower pension contributions?

In times of economic difficulty, it would seem that suggestions on how to save money are becoming more aggressive. And I am all for a bit of debate, I just think the debates surrounding some of the more outlandish ideas contained here are likely to be short.

David Davison

It is interesting to note, as we await the content of Lord Hutton’s report on public sector pensions, the amount of speculative material that is being produced on the subject.  It is already possible to discern that views and arguments are becoming to polarised and we have even had suggestions of a National strike over the matter.

Deputy PM Nick Clegg summarised the problem as a consequence of  the persistent under-estimatation of the value of the pensions promise  due to inappropriate funding methodologies and increasing longevity which in turn have given rise to insufficient contribution rates over an extended period of time.

A helpful contribution to the debate Read more »

Neil Copeland

Will the recent European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling over gender-based pricing of insurance products result in a rebirth of Haruspicy?

Pretty much since the Enlightenment we have got used to approaching the world in a logical fashion. The Oxford English Dictionary says that scientific method is: “a method of procedure that has characterised ….. science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.”

Over time observations and measurements of life expectancy have been made, formulated  and tested and a hypothesis developed which says that women live longer than men.

Hypotheses tend to represent the generally accepted position. Hypotheses are subject to periodic retesting and where, after rigourous testing, a hypothesis appears to no longer adequately explain an observed phenomenon then it can be replaced by a new hypothesis which offers a better or more complete explanation. Whilst no hypothesis would ever be held to be an eternal truth, neither would it be discarded or ignored without a compelling rationale to do so.

The learned members of the ECJ, however,  appear to have overturned the current hypothesis on life expectancy, not because compelling statistical evidence has emerged which suggests the hypothesis is not valid, but on a whim because it is not “fair”, whatever that means, and objective justification no longer seems to be a defence.

So it looks like we will be faced with the outlawing of gender based pricing by the end of 2012, and I’ve been trying to think of alternative approaches which insurance companies could use to help them price their products, and I’ve come up with Haruspicy. Read more »

Alan Collins

If life expectancy was measured on the mars bar scale, Kensington and Chelsea would be “fun size” and certain areas of Scotland would be “deep fried”.

I assume pension buyout specialists Pension Corporation use a more sophisticated method of measurement. I read with interest their press release yesterday which stated that pension schemes with Scottish members may be over-estimating life expectancy and therefore actual pension liabilities may be lower than currently estimated. Read more »

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