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Pensions Bulletin 2024/19

Our viewpoint

National Audit Office points to failings in pensions dashboard delivery

The National Audit Office has found that a number of failings within the Money and Pensions Service and at the DWP were responsible for delays in the Pensions Dashboards Programme which resulted in the then Pensions Minister having to announce a “reset” of the programme in March 2023 (see Pensions Bulletin 2023/09).

In particular, from the outset in 2019, when the DWP announced that MaPS would be responsible for leading the delivery of pensions dashboards, it did not have assurance that MaPS had the capacity and capability it would need to actually deliver it, but instead expected MaPS would be able to build up its resources.  The DWP’s subsequent oversight had limited input from digital and programme management experts, instead being led by its policy and corporate sponsorship teams.

The NAO also reveals that as early as September 2020, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) had concerns about successful delivery.  In December 2022, MaPS advised the DWP that the PDP delivery timetable was no longer viable, despite having reassured them in October 2022 that the delivery timetable would not be significantly impacted.

It subsequently became clear that:

  • A lack of resources, skills and experience across all levels of the PDP
  • Ineffective and complex programme governance, including insufficient scrutiny and challenge by the programme board
  • A lack of robust contract and performance management arrangements that hampered MaPS’s ability to oversee the supplier effectively

all contributed to the failure of the project to deliver to the original timetable.

The report goes on to examine progress in resetting the programme, with the PDP now in the final stages of completing the reset before proceeding to the next stage, with the DWP and MaPS indicating that they expect to consider the PDP’s readiness to leave reset this month.

The report concludes with some lessons learned by the DWP.  These include clarifying its relationship and accountabilities with arm’s length bodies (such as MaPS) on programme delivery and ensuring that the DWP’s functions, such as digital, provide adequate support to these bodies.  However, in making necessary changes, the DWP is mindful of not overriding arm’s length bodies’ autonomy.

Meanwhile, the estimated cost of the PDP has risen from £235m in 2020 to £289m in 2023, an increase of 23%.  And the cost to the pensions industry of delivering pensions dashboards from 2022-23 to 2031-32 is estimated to be £688m.

Comment

This is not the first Government IT project to fail to live up to expectations and nor will it be the last.  But it now does seem that the necessary turnaround is almost there, evidenced by the uptick in activity from various bodies associated with the project since the beginning of the year.  There will inevitably be many difficulties as schemes connect, but hopefully they will be of the data variety, rather than underlying issues with the ecosystem.

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ACA publishes its 2024 Pensions and Savings Manifesto

The Association of Consulting Actuaries (ACA) has published an eight point manifesto containing its key challenges to the political parties in this election year.

The ACA’s 2024 Pensions and Savings manifesto calls on all political parties to provide clarity on their wider priorities to boost pensions and savings outcomes, commit to completing current reforms where there has been a broad cross-party consensus and “focus on a narrow, achievable and deliverable list of priorities to ensure today’s working generations build adequate levels of savings”.

The manifesto also calls for:

  • All parties to agree to progress DB reforms that support growth and wider policy initiatives, with appropriate safeguards in place to protect member outcomes
  • All parties to avoid knee-jerk changes to the pensions tax regime, with the next government instead seeking to “identify a framework which can flex to accommodate the needs of the day”
  • Minimum auto-enrolment contributions to be increased to at least 12% over the next 10 years, with the introduction of flexible tax efficient “sidecar” savings products to encourage voluntary saving above minimum auto-enrolment limits in the interim
  • A default CDC provider to be introduced for individual decumulation.
  • The state pension triple lock to be retained only until 2026, with increases in line with earnings thereafter

The manifesto ends with a call for government to demonstrate an integrated approach to savings, pensions and elderly care.

Comment

We hope that the political parties are receptive to the points made in the ACA’s manifesto and take the time to properly consider some of the trickier pensions points when setting out their stalls for the upcoming General Election.

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Are the brakes being put on auto-enrolment extension?

Pensions Minister Paul Maynard’s recent response to a parliamentary written question infers that the time is not yet right for the DWP to initiate the necessary consultation on the detail of extending auto-enrolment following the passage of the Pensions (Extension of Automatic Enrolment) (No. 2) Act 2023 last September (see Pensions Bulletin 2023/37).  Things were so different back then when the Government said that the consultation would happen “at the earliest opportunity”.

Comment

This question was an ideal opportunity for the minister to make clear that the consultation was imminent.  An opportunity missed.

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This Pensions Bulletin does not constitute advice, nor should it be taken as an authoritative statement of the law.  For further help, please contact David Everett at our London office or the partner who normally advises you.

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