The Government has a problem reconciling the need for people to save for their retirement, whilst at the same time not being seen to sanction any accrued benefits which can be passed onto their heirs after death.

This stance has pretty much paralysed any rational thinking on the way forward with pensions, which have now potentially become a liability rather than an asset. Given a choice between an ISA and a pension most people today would opt for the former, whereas with proper policies in place pensions should actually be the route of choice.

Governments must also learn not to regard pension savings as a 'cash cow' to be milked at will to top up their spending shortfall. Furthermore, they are a long term contract between the Individual and the State and the rules should only be changed with sufficient notice in order not to disadvantage savers.

And for goodness sake treat pension savers as adults. After all they have built up a pension in the first place, so bullying them over drawdown & capped GAD rates is really rather insulting. Especially, as the 'reason given' is normally that the Government is looking after them for their own good to prevent them running out of money in their retirement. Well hang on! - these are people who have saved in the first place and not welfare recipients who rely on others and have made no provision for later life.

The facts are really very simple - if you wish people to save then make life easy for them to do so. Governments must stop constantly looking over their shoulder to appease those who believe that passing things onto ones children is a bad thing. They become so obsessed with this hang-up that it has a harmful undue influence in all resulting pension polices, which seems to over-ride common sense.

The acknowledged wisdom is that most of us need to save more into our pensions to have a comfortable retirement and the older one becomes before starting the process the greater the monthly amount needed.

However, the ridiculous thing is that is not necessarily the case and it is perfectly possible to accrue a substantial retirement fund, if only Governments would take their head out of the sand and start thinking constructively.

Personal pensions (SIPP's) are already permitted to invest in commercial property. A simple example of enlightened thinking would be to revise the SIPP borrowing rules and allow them to borrow 60%-70% to purchase commercial property, provided the pension had a deposit of 30%-40%; furthermore, this should apply on a property by property basis.

The figures are simple and the loan on the commercial property would be paid off within around 15 years - entirely from rents receivable. Once paid off the property would then yield between 5%-7.5% per annum in rent, as eithe retirement income or to help fund another purchase

Example: Taking a commercial property worth £100,000, a deposit of £30,000 and a mortgage of £70,000 (70%)

  • Current situation - In order to borrow £70,000 the SIPP must hold assets of £150,000
  • Proposed situation - In order to borrow £70,000 the SIPP would only have to put down a deposit of £30,000

However, it is all about fostering the right climate and encouraging people to save into pensions.

Saying that someone must save £500-£1,000 in order to have a decent pension will simply put people off and the net result will be no saving whatsoever, because they believe that the figures being bandied about are beyond their reach and therefore it is not worth even trying to start saving

The benefits of getting it right are immense - now it only requires political will!

Tags: | Categories: UK Government

Why Are Public Servants Under Inquiry Allowed To Retire Early

Just to revisit Sir Norman Bettison, who we recall, much to everyone’s chagrin was allowed to retire before facing the music over his involvement with Hillsborough

It would seem that we now have the 'concerned brigade' out in force in the form of The Independent Police Complaints Commission; although it is still only rhetoric with no action

Deborah Glass, Deputy Chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Commission:

'.. I am very mindful of the public concerns around officer resigning or retiring while under investigation, thereby escaping misconduct sanctions ..'

'.. I do find it unacceptable that officers take that option rather than facing up to the case against them ..'

This whole shameful process, of allowing the police and public servants to play a 'get out of jail' card, rather than face an enquiry, has been going on for a very long time now, and nothing has been done to stop it being employed by those charged with an offense as a way of avoiding accountability

Don't simply pontificate about your concern Ms Deborah Glass - do something about it and change the way this whole process is addressed.

Anyway, why do matters have to reach this stage before the Independent (hint - supposed to be in the name) Police Commission wakes up to the fact that something is wrong. Failing to spot these things before they reach crisis point simply means total incompetence (or self interest) by those in charge

... and now we hear that the man may be receiving a pension of £87,000 per annum, which by any calculations must mean that he has a pension pot equivalent to at least £1.4 million and probably far more - funded at the taxpayers’ expense because of his status as a civil servant.

So who said there was not a two tier class system in the UK; because it definitely exists between people in these public positions and public/private sector pensions. A simple question - how long would it have taken Bettison to have accumulated a pension pot of this magnitude if he was in the private sector?

Nevertheless, it must be heartening to relatives of the victims of Hillsborough to know that Sir Norman Bettison has retired on a pension rumoured to be about £87,000 per annum (what was the tax free lump sum associated with that figure?).

Furthermore, as taxpayers, they will be paying for the comfortable pension of someone who is accused of misconduct surrounding the death of members of their families

Well the public needs some hard and fast rules about this sort of thing, and probably the first matter on the agenda is that public servants (in fact no-one) should be rewarded for dodging a disciplinary hearing and additionally they should not be entitled to a pension of this magnitude for retiring/resigning before facing a hearing

Either turn up for the disciplinary hearing or forfeit their pension, and if found guilty they should forfeit their pension in any event

Tags: | Categories: UK Government

Justice and Security Bill

We are back to the age old political ploy of slipping contentious legislation through whilst everyone is looking the other way.

The most recent demonstration of this is ensuring everyone's attention is focussed on same-sex marriage, whilst furtively re-introducing The Justice and Security Bill quietly in the background and cancelling previous amendments

Political sleight of hand that we all believed had gone away when Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell departed, although unfortunately it does not seem to be the case with the present Government

Nevertheless, there is something ironic about the 'liberal party' supporting something of this nature, although one can see that self-interest over-rides natural justice with all political animals. Furthermore, this mind-set has already been demonstrated by Nick Clegg in other areas, where his 'horse trading' took precedence over doing the right thing for the benefit of the community

The disappointing thing about the recent successful changes to this 'Secret' Justice Bill is that they are geared to protect Ministers and would further strengthen their ability to make use of secret courts to defend themselves; so matters such as the Expenses Scandal would probably never have seen the light of day

Do we really want a system of secret justice hugely weighted in favour of Governments and those in power to the detriment of the 'ordinary' man in the street - what price a free democratic society?

The main lobbyists would seem to be the MI5/6 security chiefs and quite frankly they do not have a great track record themselves

Remember the Dr David Kelly incident, which has never been fully explained to this day. There is still a weight of opinion that Dr Kelly was killed by MI5/6, and unfortunately a cloud still hangs over this episode because of the non-disclosure and secrecy surrounding the whole matter. Whilst Lord Hutton's public inquiry ruled that Dr Kelly killed himself, there are a great many who simply feel that Lord Hutton was the Governments tame poodle, to deliver the desired result and gloss over a number of unexplained incidents surrounding the situation. It is worth noting that

Dr David Kelly is the only person in modern English legal history

to be denied a proper inquest

With this in mind are MI5/6 the best organisations to be interfering or lobbying for items to be included or removed from the justice system?

Once again it is about abuse of trust and even though legislation is introduced today to cater for one specific set of circumstances, politicians & civil servants have a track record of bending and abusing things to accommodate or protect their own agenda in the future

References

HM Government - Justice and Security Bill

Daily Mail - Law chief to probe KGB agent's claim that David Kelly was 'exterminated'

Tags: | Categories: UK Government

Defeat of the Boundary Change proposals was wholly predictable and has previously been discussed on this site prior to actually knowing the end result - Nick Clegg Blocking Boundary Change Like A Spoilt Selfish Child

These proposals were originally suggested in to avoid the situation of different classes of voters; where some peoples votes are worth more than others because of the inequality of the number of constituents within existing boundaries. Clearly where one boundary contains 100,000 voters and another contains 50,000 voters, one set of voters has twice as much influence as another

‘.. For example, 87,000 voters in the East Ham constituency together get one say in the government.  The 66,000 voters living 10 miles away in Islington North get one say too.  So, if you live in Islington, your voice counts for more ..’

Obviously so far as the Labour party is concerned this is a highly beneficial situation because other parties need to work a lot harder to win an election

However, just to recap on the Liberal Democrats stance. So far as they were concerned it was never about the best interests of the country but the advantages / returns their party could achieve by either prostituting themselves to the highest bidder or sulking because they could not get their own way over the House of Lords

Nick Clegg has already addressed this in the past - House of Commons - Tuesday 26 October 2010

“.. It is one of the founding principles of any democracy that votes should be valued in the same way, wherever they are cast.  Over the years, all sorts of anomalies have developed, such that different people's votes are simply not worth the same in elections to this place.  That surely cannot be right..."

What more can one say about this disgraceful, hypocritical man who places the interest of himself and his party above those of the country? Furthermore, he obviously has a short memory!

Tags: | Categories: UK Government

What a can of worms David Cameron has opened up with proposals to place Gay Marriage on the same footing as Traditional Marriage.

This is not about discrimination of homosexual or lesbian individuals but neither must there be discrimination about the religious beliefs of others, who currently seem to be taking second place to the wishes of a relatively small vociferous section of the population and an ill-informed Prime Minister.

Never forget that if one demands tolerance then one should also be prepared to extend it to others and it should not be a one-sided operation

This is yet another tricky subject because of the potentially intolerant stance it elicits - nevertheless, as time goes on it becomes increasingly clear that these proposals were not adequately thought out initially before rushing to suggest them. This seems to be 'about par' for the Government whose mantra is speak first & think later - i.e. Prince Charles Rightly Questions Rushed Succession Bill

Furthermore, this proposal was not part of any election manifesto which formed the basis of the current Government being elected; so in this respect one will never really know whether these ideas have the support of the electorate

Inevitably the conflict between Church (generic term for religious beliefs of all types) and State has come to the forefront over this issue. A great many of these Religions do not countenance the principle of homosexuality, so same-sex marriage in its suggested form is an anathema to them. However, because of their views, they are therefore in danger of being marginalised by the State for upholding their beliefs; and all to satisfy the wishes of a minority few

The issues would seem to be as follows:

  • Apart from merely extending existing heterosexual marriage to same-sex couples, the legislation will redefine marriage for all couples
  • The proposal seems to involve heterosexual marriage itself being amended to accommodate the wishes and lifestyles of members of the gay community
  • Hitherto, the Government has claimed that this is merely an "equality" issue, however, these fundamental changes belie Government statements. Although whether the electorate has been lied to on purpose by David Cameron is another question
  • Government figures indicate that only 6,000 couples per year will avail themselves of the right to gay marriage; compare this with roughly 230,000 heterosexual marriages per year
  • Same-sex couples will not gain one single legal additional entitlement that they do not already enjoy as a result of the introduction of civil partnerships - so what is the reason for this except as political mileage?
  • Ultimately, the Government has absolutely no idea what the full ramification of the introduction of same-sex marriage will be for employees such as teachers, nor for churches and religious groups as issues of equality are raised in the European courts

Finally, a real hurdle for the Government is the definition of 'consummation' in respect of same sex marriages. The problem here is that failure to address this matter flies in the face of two fundmental existing concepts - Annulment and Adultery; both of which exist under current hetrosexual marriages

'.. Government legal experts failed to agree what constitutes “sex” between same-sex couples ..'

One has to ask how difficult it is to provide a definition about this factual action? Therefore in order to avoid this difficult issue, centuries-old concepts, which are the cornestones of some Religions, are to be turned on their head because of political expediency and the fact that the Government feels uncomfortable with providing a definition of Gay sex.

So far as Christians are concerned it might just be worthwhile stating the Ten Commandments and in case of any doubt this is the one we are talking about

Thou shalt not commit adultery

These commandments have been around rather a long time and now David Cameron and the UK Government proposes to get rid of this one because it does not fit his political agenda

Anyway it is comforting to know that David Cameron has now made the Ten Commandments less onerous by knocking one off the list. Welcome to the new 'streamlined' Nine (9) Commandments courtesy of the UK Prime Minister

There was an interesting article in the Daily Telegraph concerning this issue. Unfortunately, for some reason the article in seems to be unavailable online - so it is reproduced below

Daily Telegraph, Saturday 26th January 2012, p8

Gay marriage Bill may be death of adultery

By John Bingham, Social Affairs Editor

The centuries-old concept of adultery could be abolished in law as a result of the Government’s plans for same sex marriage, lawyers and MPs said last night. Under a long-awaited Bill allowing homosexual couples to marry, only infidelity between people of opposite genders would count as adultery in divorce cases. It means that people in a same-sex marriage who discover that their spouse is unfaithful to them would not be able to divorce on the basis of adultery – unless it was with someone of the opposite sex. Equally, it makes clear that heterosexual people cannot accuse their partner of adultery if they discover they had a secret lover of the same sex

It comes after government legal experts failed to agree what constitutes “sex” between same-sex couples. The Bill also makes clear that homosexual couples would not be able to have their marriage annulled on the grounds of non-consummation for the same reasons. Lawyers and MPs said that the distinction over adultery created inequality between heterosexual and homosexual couples in the divorce courts and would lead to confusion. They said it made it likely that adultery would simply be abolished as a grounds for divorce – either through Parliament or through the courts.

Maria Miller, the equalities minister said she hoped to “strengthen the importance of marriage in our society” and said supporters believed the Bill would be “good for society”. But among opponents, the Roman Catholic Church warned that it would “radically alter” the meaning of marriage for everyone and “undermine the common good”.

As well as allowing gay couples to marry in Britain for the first time, those in civil partnerships will be able to “convert” to marriage – either with a new ceremony or simply paying a £100 administrative fee and requesting a new certificate. Briefing papers published with the Bill, which will be debated next month, show that the Government expects about 6,000 same-sex couples a year will choose to marry, although there could be an initial “spike” in the first few years as those in civil partnerships upgrade.

The papers make clear that officials are also expecting an “influx” of applications for gender reassignment as a result of the new law, which would enable a married person to have the surgery without having to get divorced. It is thought that as many as 3,000 people would opt to change their gender as a result. Officials also predict that the change in the law could open the way for gay marriage “tourism”, with couples coming to Britain to tie the knot because it is not legal in their own country. As official impact assessment estimates the changes will cost up to £4million, with computer systems being altered and some divorce forms being pulped and reprinted. It also estimates that up to 1,200 churches, synagogues and other religious buildings would offer same-sex weddings. The Bill includes a series of measures that the Government insists would protect religious freedom by ensuring religious institutions are not forced to carry out same-sex weddings.

But lawyers who drafted the Bill sidestepped the question of defining what constituted sex between gay couples by including a clause saying that only "conduct between one party to the marriage and a person of the opposite sex" would constitute adultery. Ayesha Vardag, a leading London divorce lawyer, said that the creation of the new distinction could pave the way for adultery to be abolished in law. Listed among the 10 Commandments and recognised in English law since at least Anglo-Saxon times, adultery was the sole ground for divorce in Britain until the 1920s. But in recent years wronged spouses have increasingly cited "unreasonable behaviour" as a grounds for divorce. But it is still cited in 17,000 divorces a year in England and Wales. "The only appropriate and balanced way to deal with this would be to scrap the act of adultery as a basis for divorce altogether," said Ms Vardag.

In the end all that it comes down to is David Cameron trying to gain political advantage in a very damaging way. When with a bit more thought the process could have probably been addressed in a better way to achieve the desired goals - bulldozing these thing through rarely works well, especially if peoples (DC) motives are suspect in the first place

References

Mail - Concept of adultery could be abolished in law as grounds for divorce in wake of Government’s plans for gay marriage

Tags: | Categories: UK Government

Pension planning is a long term exercise and changes made within 10 years of retirement provide little leeway to those coming up for retirement to obtain the requisite qualifying years

The principle is a good one, but the execution may be considerably flawed. A great deal more thought needs to be given to implementation and transitional arrangements. Unfortunately the devil is in the detail and in this respect there is no clarity

Originally men & women needed 44/39 years of contributions to qualify for a full state pension. This was changed so that after April 2010 it dropped to 30 years contributions for everyone and now proposals are in place to raise it again to 35 years in order to be eligible for the new flat rate pension.

In the meantime anyone who already had 30 years contributions has probably stopped paying any more NI (on Government advice) if they were making voluntary contributions to top up their years.

Now only to be told that they need a further 5 years contributions to be eligible – but what happens if they have used up their ‘back years’ contributions their age doesn’t permit them to achieve the additional 5 years contributions necessary to qualify under the new proposals? Do they lose out in the pension lottery?

On the other hand to get bereavement benefits you need to pay 39 years of National Insurance contributions for women and 44 years for men – so it’s back to square one if you die; where is the consistency with this?

All very messy and in need of being urgently sorted out

Also, don’t forget that there is a category of women coming up for retirement, born within a certain date range, who have already been disproportionately disadvantaged under the last round of pension age shifting, which saw pension ages being deferred by a relatively huge amount for those within 4/5 years of retirement.

A very discriminatory process for women in this age group who in the worst case scenario probably lose up to £25,000 retirement benefits in total

Women falling into this category are now in danger of being disadvantaged once again in a ‘double-whammy’ by these recent proposals.

Quite frankly this Government cannot keep penalising women & those nearing retirement in this overtly discriminatory manner – start introducing some fairness into the proceedings

Especially when all this is stacked up against those on benefits with pension credits, automatically eligible for everything despite possibly never having done a day’s work in their life.

Otherwise this whole thing really does send out the wrong message

If the Government really wants to concentrate on something, then how about totally unsustainable Public Sector Pensions which need to be placed on the same footing as the Private Sector for all new entrants, with immediate effect

Tags: | Categories: UK Government

The latest bandwagon for everyone to jump on is removing benefits (such as winter fuel allowance) paid to ‘richer pensioners’ (undefined). 

Now the Times Leader has joined the debate with a dysfunctional article which only portrays one side of the equation and ignores the reality of the existing state pension system. Backing up their argument with crass statements such as:

‘.. And while inflation and low interest rates have undoubtedly eaten into their savings since 2008, the elderly have been largely insulated from the financial pain of the young ..’

How is underwriting the banks and those in negative equity with artificially low interest rates paid for by savers being '..largely insulated..'? Muddled thinking from those who should know better - or perhaps they have their own agenda?

Pensioners benefits have only come about because the UK state pension is one of the ‘meanest’ in the developed world. Not only is it lower than all but three of the developed nations but also Britons face having to wait longer than people in any other industrialised country before they can retire

Furthermore, comparisons show that pensioners in the UK only get state payments worth 41.5% of average after-tax earnings. Whereas in Spain and Italy, the state pension is worth 84.9 and 75.3% of average earnings respectively and in the US, which has one of the least generous welfare systems, the state pension there is worth 50% of average earnings. In France it is 60.4% and in Germany 57.9%.

A study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which represents 34 industrialised nations, found only Mexico (32.2% of average earnings), Ireland (35.8%) and Japan (39.7%) have lower state pensions than the UK

By all means remove, additional pension benefits but replace/reallocate them to providing a basic state pension more in line with the rest of the developed world – to do otherwise would be yet another ill-advised approach and never forget that 'extra' benefits exist to supplement an woefully inadequate state pension

So before everyone starts complaining about UK pension top ups perhaps they should do their homework, or even consider introducing a basic state pension which is at least 50% of average after-tax earnings. Better still, introduce a state pension which is an average of all EU countries pensions (including Greece which is 111.2%)

Once again, if it is all about a united Europe why are member countries allowed to be wildly out of synchronisation in this areas as well as state benefits etc. – one currency should also mean one set of financial rules throughout the Union

However, if cuts really are the order of the day (and they should be) then why is everyone avoiding the ‘elephant in the room’ – PUBLIC SECTOR PENSIONS

Stop Unsustainable Public Sector Pensions Immediately For New Employees

 

Reference

Britains Mean State Pension vs Other Countries

Times Newspaper - Welfare in a State

Tags: | Categories: UK Government

One of the problems with the present government is the constant knee-jerk rush to implement ideas that have not really been thought out properly in an attempt to demonstrate how egalitarian and forward thinking they are

We have already witnessed this previously over gay marriage (not in the election manifesto) and once again it is being encountered over the monarchy and succession issues

The government is trying to fast-track through parliament the succession to the crown bill at the earliest opportunity. This is the bill which will change the ancient laws governing the royal line of succession to ensure the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's first child would succeed to the throne regardless of gender

Prince Charles is right to speak out against what can only be described as having all the hallmarks of a rushed botched job over the monarchy and succession, with little thought to the longer term implications

Included in the planned reforms is the proposal to allow the couple's first-born to marry a Catholic (although not to be one), without having to renounce the right to succeed

David Cameron seems to have completely ignored concerns raised previously by constitutional experts and theologians, concerning the issue of what would happen if first in line's future spouse were Catholic and insisted any children be raised as Catholics. This would either bar their child from the throne or compromise the monarch's role as supreme governor of the Church of England

Although, Canon law does not stipulate that children from a marriage between a non-Catholic and Catholic must be raised in the Catholic faith; nevertheless the Catholic must make a declaration:

"that I will sincerely undertake that I will do all that I can within the unity of our partnership to have all the children of our marriage baptised and brought up in the Catholic church"

So how does Mr Cameron propose to deal with this issue? Will he try to brush it under the carpet or off-load it onto the Judiciary in the same way as the definition of 'consummation' (requirement for annulment) has been avoided with gay marriages?

Difficult questions need to be addressed rather than adopting politically expendient ways round the issues that resolve nothing - but invariably that is politics; all smoke and mirrors!

The aspect that is disappointing in all this is the Prime Ministers complete lack of comprehension over the issues involved - surely he cannot actually be as stupid as he is portraying himself?

Tags: | Categories: UK Government

Boundary Commission - What is Proposed

The underlying question is whether the current UK electoral boundaries give an equitable and representative indication of the number of registered electors in a constituency; without excessive bias towards one party or another

The present proposal aims to accomplish two things:

  • Reduce the number of constituencies from 533 to 502
  • ensure each constituency contains a similar number of registered electors

The upshot of the proposals is that inevitably there will be winners and losers - with suggested losers being Labour and Lib Dems.

However, the real problem arises because Nick Clegg is trying to 'horse-trade' over reforms to the House of Lords in exchange for his support over this matter and essentially if he doesn't get his own way, will block any boundary changes in retaliation as a spoiling action

This is not about whether boundary changes are the right or wrong decision for the country as a whole but rather whether Nick Clegg can get his own way like a spoilt child; and if he cannot then he will retaliate by being spiteful

Well Mr Clegg (and other politicians) needs to take a wider view for the good of the country - by all means block the proposals if he believes that there is no benefit for the country as a whole or the electorate.

However, to take any other approach and adopt a childish stance because he has not got his own way in another area, simply shows him up for the opportunist he really is and renders a great dis-service to the country

Do we really need 'self-serving' representatives or should all those of his ilk be simply kicked out

Tags: | Categories: UK Government

Another day - another winner

Under proposed Government plans, details of internet use in the UK will have to be stored for a year to allow police and intelligence services to access it

This is totally unworkable because it is very simple to circumvent by those involved in activities the authorities wish to  monitor. For instance how does the Government propose to get around:

  • Using tools such as The Tor Project - '.. Tor is free software and an open network that helps you defend against a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security ..'
  • The method used by General Patreus to communicate with mistress by email was - set up a web based email account and give both parties a login. Emails are never actually sent from the account so no sender/received trail ever exists. Instead one party writes a draft message and saves it under the drafts area, then the other person logs in, reads the draft and deletes it. A simple anonymous almost untraceable method of communication which is not going to be intercepted by any Government snooping
  • Proxy servers

The list is endless and unless the Goverment can provide a certain, foolproof method of ensuring that the above avoidance methods cannot be used then what is the point in introducing any legislation whatsoever?

The reason for these few examples is to demonstrate that any proposed legislation will be almost useless in monitoring targeted groups or individuals because they will know ways around the system. However, it will catch an unsuspecting public and open their private lives to public scrutiny and to all the official departments having access to the data; which as we have seen before is a licence for data abuse

... and no don't come up with that 'old canard' about why worry if you have nothing to hide which is a specious argument at the best of times

We have perfectly adequate safeguards in place at the present time without giving the state further licence to snoop on the public at large.

Don't forget that we have already had a situation where - ‘.. A tribunal ruled that Poole council had breached the law by using powers designed to catch serious criminals to track every movement of the Paton family ..’

Family win school catchment spying case

Furthermore, even now there are proposals to widen the scope of those having access to the data to cover almost anything the Government feels is against its best interests; so it just gets better and better! - 1984 and all that ...

References

Draft (Daft) Communications Data Bill

Tags: , | Categories: UK Government