Battle of the Blogs Revisited
Hmm! An interesting couple of days (again). Yesterday I was gobsmacked to read in the Times that the BeeHive has made it onto a list of the ‘Best 50 business blogs’. Not a UK list, by the way, but a worldwide one. Like, how good’s that? If you’re interested you can see the list on the online version of the Times1.
Now, what drew my eye to the article in the paper in the first place was that it was illustrated with a photo of Steve Jobs, my number two hero of all time (Bob Dylan is first, then Steve Jobs, Jack Kerouac, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Robert Crumb, Georges Remi, Aubrey Beardsley and Vincent Van Gogh make up my all time top ten if you must know). So I was halfway through reading the article about the power of blogs when I read the bit about the BeeHive. Well, I can tell you that that’s the first time I’ve ever been mentioned in an article in the press alongside your man Steve Jobs, so you can imagine I’m pretty pleased with that. It doesn’t happen every day does it? Especially if all you ever get quoted about is pensions. In fact it’s pretty much against the run of play if you think about it.
Anyway, the piece in the Times contained the web address of the BeeHive and also mentioned last year’s ‘Battle of the Blogs’ that regular BeeLiners will know was when we had an online war of words with the current Pensions Minister, James Purnell, over the Government’s plans to auto-enrol millions of people into a massive pension scheme it proposes to build by 2012. Our point, which is still not accepted by the Government people, is that the way private pension savings can simply end up substituting means-tested benefits to which people would otherwise become entitled mitigates against any real spread of pension saving among those currently unpensioned. Given that, even after this new round of ‘reforms’ goes through, one in three of us will become entitled to means-tested support in retirement2 it seems obvious to me that it’s too big an issue for the Government to ignore. But I suppose that’s all water under the bridge right now, or dust under the carpet, but what I want to do here for any new BeeLiners who’ve just found their way to the site from the link given in the Times (hello, by the way, nice to see you) is to provide the links to the BeeLines written last year that constituted the Battle of the Blogs. They’re all here, in the order they first appeared in real life:
Well, that’s about all of it, the whole boxing match, blow by blow. Mind you, if it had been a boxing match I would have thought that given the number of haymakers that landed a referee would have waded in and stopped the bout before all ten rounds had run their course. It’s interesting to read the BeeLines again now though, and it may be quite an eye-opener for any of you who are new to the BeeHive or new to the important pension stuff that’s going down these days. But it’s not all over yet I’m afraid.
Just today the Government has announced its plans to go ahead with the launch of the national scheme of Personal Accounts in 20123. You can read the whole thing they’ve issued by clicking on this link if you like:
As far as I can see the top line news in this is that there will be an annual cap of £3,600 on the amount people will be able to pay into Personal Accounts. You’ll remember that the Pension Commission recommended £3,000 and the Government was keen on £5,000, so £3,600 looks like some kind of compromise of sorts. Quite irrelevant in my view, but what do I know?
Flitting through the text I picked up on a couple of points of interest on the issue of Groupings of Personal Pensions (GPPs) that many employers these days run as an alternative to trust-based occupational money-purchase schemes. The issue with GPPs and Personal Accounts is that people who are not in ‘good’ occupational pension schemes in 2012 will be auto-enrolled into either the scheme of Personal Accounts or a ‘suitable’ workplace scheme. Under European law it’s not possible to auto-enrol people into contract-based arrangements (such as a grouping of personal pensions), so some way will need to be found round that if the Government means it when it says it does not wish to harm the existing GPP market.
The two quotes I picked up on were these:
“The Government recognises that workplace personal pension arrangements, such as Group Personal Pensions and Group Stakeholder Pensions, form a significant and valuable part of the existing pensions market and is keen to see these arrangements continue in the run-up to 2012 and beyond. However, we want to ensure that any decision regarding exemption for employers operating such arrangements from Personal Accounts requirements balances the twin aims of supporting the continuation of high quality existing pension arrangements and ensuring sufficient coverage and savings levels for employees.”
“The Government is considering the effectiveness of alternative joining techniques for workplace personal pension arrangements that are compliant with European law.”
I’ll need to think about what that actually means and we need to know exactly what it will all mean in practice, but at first sight the Government appears to be saying all the right things here.
To finish off, the current Secretary of State for work and Pensions, John Hutton, put out a press release today4 showing that a recent survey has found that “84 per cent of people surveyed supported the idea of a national pension savings scheme such as personal accounts, and 68 per cent supported automatic enrolment”. It’s not clear whether or not the people surveyed were aware that loads of people auto-enrolled into the scheme being proposed will be running the very real risk of losing somewhere between 40% and 100% of the value of their pension savings, but if they did then good on them for being so positive about it. You can read the whole of the minister’s press release and get access to the supporting surveys if you like by clicking on this next link:
That’s enough for this BeeLine I think, time to grab a coffee and let the keyboard cool down. See you soon…
14 June 2007
1. Timesonline website 13 June 2007.
2. Department for Work and Pensions website, Security in retirement:towards a new pension system.
3. Department for Work and Pensions website, Personal Accounts: a new way to save Summary of response to the consultation 14 June 2007.
4. Department for Work and Pensions website, Press Releases 14 June 2007.
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