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Pensions dashboard 2019 deadline ‘might be a stretch’

Paloma Kubiak
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Paloma Kubiak

A new project group has called for direction and commitment from the government over the implementation of the pensions dashboard, first announced last year and set to launch in 2019.

The pensions dashboard project group has today set out its recommendations for the next stage of the online scheme, which will allow savers to view all their pension pots in one place.

First announced in the March Budget of 2016, the government tasked the industry to come up with a prototype showing how data from both private and state bodies can be collated for consumers to view.

This prototype was successfully delivered earlier this year but the group, made up of 16 contributors, the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) and managed by the Association of British Insurers (ABI), said it is time for the government to commit to the project.

It wants to see government legislation to ensure all pension providers and schemes make their data available. Consumers find it difficult to gather information about their various pensions and they want a service that is near complete.

The group also wants to see an implementation timetable and a governance body to oversee the operation.

It also wants a non-commercial, government-backed platform to operate alongside services from third parties in a bid to “engender trust in a new service”.

Yvonne Braun, ABI director of policy, long-term savings and protection, said: “The potential of a pensions dashboard style service is exciting. Our recent research has found the majority of consumers easily see the value of the concept, are genuinely excited by it, and imagine it would encourage them to save and plan more effectively for later life.

“We have the support of the public and we know the technology works. It’s time for the government to lay its cards on the table and be clear about what it is prepared to commit to this important project, and when.

“For such a service to succeed it needs to be as comprehensive as possible, as soon as possible, and anything that involves people’s life savings must be effectively regulated. We need a clear timetable for implementation and legislation so we can turn this great concept into a genuine public service.”

‘Government fixated on Brexit’

Tom Selby, senior analyst at AJ Bell, said Theresa May’s weakened position and a government fixated on Brexit risk forcing the pensions dashboard project off the political agenda.

“The ABI is clearly concerned about a lack of will from Whitehall and today’s announcement looks like an attempt to kick policymakers into action.

“On a practical level the proposed 2019 implementation deadline might be a stretch, particularly given the government’s lack of involvement in recent months. Legislation will inevitably be needed to ensure maximum coverage, particularly from closed-book providers who hold information on outdated systems that would likely require expensive upgrades.

“There also remains significant doubt as to whether millions of public sector workers will be able to view their pensions through the dashboard. Public sector schemes were given a carve-out from the pension freedoms and, given the pressures on resources at the moment, the government may be tempted to exclude them again.”

Kate Smith, head of pensions at Aegon, added that with savers having lost track of £400m worth of pensions, there’s a clear need for the pensions dashboard.

“Without legislation or regulation there’s a real risk that the pension dashboard will stop in its tracks. While it’s great to see some progress with the ABI’s plans for the pensions dashboard, the government needs to support this initiative and ensure there is space in the legislative timetable this side of 2020.”

A Treasury spokesperson, said: “We are fully committed to making the pensions dashboard a reality and we will set out the next steps in due course.”