Secretary of state for work and pensions, Esther McVey, has moved to cancel the pensions dashboard project.
As reported by The Times, the online dashboard, which was set to be introduced in 2019, could be scrapped by the minister.
According to sources the paper spoke to, McVey believes the service should not be provided by the state and it would distract from the rollout of universal credit.
The pensions dashboard was announced by then chancellor George Osborne in 2016 to enable members to view their pension savings in one place. The project was initially led by HM Treasury and was passed on to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) last year.
Following this, an official consultation in support of the dashboard by the pensions industry and interested parties closed in March. The DWP has not yet outlined its next steps regarding the project, however.
The DWP has noted an estimated 50 million pension pots will be lost by 2050, if an online hub is not in place for savers to keep track of their savings.
Work and pensions committee chair Frank Field said he would be calling for McVey to reveal her plans for the project.
‘This must be the first case of a secretary of state looking a gift horse in the mouth — and then kicking it in the shins. Horses so mistreated tend to misbehave,’ he said.
According to The Times, a political aide to the secretary of state has not denied a possible scrapping of the policy. A DWP spokesperson stated: ‘When we have an announcement to make, we will make it.’
The Association of British Insurers, (ABI) who managed the creation of the dashboard prototype on behalf of the Treasury, along with many in the pensions industry, have argued against the termination of the platform.
ABI director general Huw Evans said: ‘It is vital the government stands by its promises on the pension dashboard. To abandon it would be a huge let down to millions of savers, leaving them unable to find the money they have saved and even exposing them to fraud. This is an initiative with cross-party support, backed by consumer groups, which is a win-win for everyone.’
He argued that while the pensions industry is committed to assisting with the development of the dashboard, the government’s involvement is also crucial.
Also commenting on the possibility of terminating the project, Aegon head of pensions Kate Smith said: ‘Ditching the dashboard at this point makes little sense and will ultimately make people’s retirement planning harder.
Having a single source of pensions data, that tells people what they can expect from both the state and their private pensions should significantly boost people’s engagement and lead to better decision making, and less reliance on the state. With the government’s ban on cold calling delayed, this could prove to be yet another blow for the nation’s savers.’
Royal London pension specialist Helen Morrissey added that the suggestion of pulling the plug on the dashboard is ‘extremely disappointing’.
‘What is all the more puzzling is that this is a policy that has received support from Treasury while pensions minister Guy Opperman has repeatedly said the dashboard will happen and urged the industry to back the project. We would urge him to do all he can to persuade the work and pensions secretary to continue with this important policy.’