The government has scrapped plans to continue development of its web-based retirement planning platform for those on low to medium incomes.
Retirement Planner was proposed by the previous secretary of state for work and pensions, Andrew Smith, in February 2004, as a radical plan to help people take control of their retirement planning by enabling them to get a clear overview of their retirement prospects based on personal information about both state and private pension provision.
But James Purnell, minister for pension reform, yesterday confirmed in a ministerial statement the platform was being shelved because an evaluation of the proposed service had concluded providing “accurate online information about state pensions would become increasingly difficult given the uncertainty about the exact shape of future pension provision“.
The future of the platform has been in doubt since the publication of the government white paper on state reform of pensions earlier this year and the imminent publication of the second white paper which deals with personal accounts.
The first element of the service, the provision of online state pension forecasts, was delivered, on schedule, in 2004. But with the remaining elements of the service due for delivery in 2006 Purnell was forced to concede the platform would not be further developed.
Purnell said the government remained “committed to the principle of providing people with information to support retirement planning but [is] clear that this now needs to be set in the context of the wider white paper developments”.
Jonathan French, a spokesman for the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has expressed dismay at the announcement as he says the ABI had been working with the government over the development of Retirement Planner, adding the association is disappointed by the decision to scrap the platform.
French adds the first the ABI heard Retirement Planner was being scrapped was during yesterday's ministerial statement, although it had been aware that a review of what to do with the platform had been carried out.
"This was a project we have been working with the government on for some time so it is disappointing it has taken this decision, although we hope it will be resurrected in the future," he adds.
French suggests the purpose of the platform was never to provide advice as those in the financial services profession might understand the term. Rather, he says its purpose was to give consumers an idea of the state pension they would be entitled to, enabling them to make better informed choices about their private pension requirements.
He says the ABI believes the platform could still have been adapted for such purposes despite the reforms currently being examined by the government for a national pension saviing scheme.
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