Govt commitment to dashboard ‘huge step forward’, says Webb

Victoria McKeever writes

The government’s commitment to the pensions dashboard, expected to be announced on Thursday, is a ‘huge step forward’ for the project, according to former pensions minister Steve Webb.

Current pensions minister Guy Opperman is expected to tell delegates at the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) annual conference this afternoon that the development of the dashboard will go ahead.

The dashboard will allow consumers to have all their pension data in one place, making it easier for them to manage their savings. It is due to be launched to the public before 2019 – a deadline set by ex-Chancellor George Osborne.

Last September the Association of British Insurers (ABI), the government-assigned overseer of the dashboard, said the dashboard would need government legislation to ensure it had wide enough coverage to work for the public.

Economic secretary to the Treasury Simon Kirby already said in April he was exploring ways the government can force pension schemes to meet the pensions dashboard data standards.

Webb, who is now Royal London director of policy, said while the government has made it clear it would not deliver or pay for the dashboard, its engagement was “vitally” important.

“This is a huge step forward. Those of us who want consumers to be able to see all of their pensions in one place had started to despair at the lack of momentum coming from government,” he said.

“The government can help to ensure that state pensions and public service pensions are included in the dashboard and can legislate to require all private pension schemes to supply data to the dashboard.

“Other countries have had services of this sort for many years and it is time that the UK caught up, especially given the fragmented nature of much UK pension provision.”

Overview of total income

Just Group communications director Stephen Lowe also welcomed any commitment from the government.

He said: “It is pleasing to see progress being made on one of the key ‘remedies’ proposed by the Financial Conduct Authority to encourage more competition in the retirement income market.

“By allowing ‘small pot’ and ‘trivial commutation’ withdrawals, our pension rules have long implied that small amounts of pension aren’t worth bothering with. However, as the trend of people having more jobs and employers continues, it is crucial that all pension pots are viewed in the context of the total income that can be generated in retirement.”

He added: “We also support the Association of British Insurers’ (ABI) recommendations that the state pension is included in the dashboard.”

Last week the ABI set out its recommendations as to what should happen next in the dashboard’s development. It said the access to financial advisers would not be a requirement for the initial dashboard but part of the “future vision” of the project.