Pensions dashboard could be thrown on the scrapheap

Esther McVey © Rex Features
McVey is focusing on universal credit, not pensions

The government is rumoured to be axing its plan to create a pensions dashboard to consolidate all your personal pensions. But there are alternatives.

Last week it was reported that Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, has plans to get rid of the pensions dashboard. If she confirms off-the-record briefings to that effect given by her department in recent weeks, many will be sorely disappointed. The scheme was supposed to ensure that by 2019 everyone in Britain would have access to a single web page where they could see all their pensions in one place.

In an era of fragmented employment, where the average worker has 11 different jobs over the course of their career, the dashboard could ensure savers get a complete picture of all their retirement savings – and therefore a better idea of whether they’re on track to have enough to live on when they retire. It would also help savers stay in touch with their pensions; currently, Britons are thought to have lost track of pension funds worth £400m.

Nevertheless, McVey is apparently concerned that setting up the pensions dashboard and fixing the IT problems in the new universal credit scheme at the same time is unmanageable.

If you are looking to consolidate your pension funds, there are currently dashboard-type products on the market. The best-known example, PensionBee, works with savers to track down all the pensions they’ve held in the past. These plans can then be consolidated into a single pension fund that you manage online.

PensionBee’s rivals include the robo-advice service Nutmeg, which also accepts pension transfers – and will help with the process. You can then manage your savings in a single location via its website.

There’s also nothing to stop you consolidating all your pensions through a fund supermarket service such as Hargreaves Lansdown or Fidelity FundsNetwork. Many of these platforms offer self-invested personal pensions, into which you can transfer existing savings and then manage your money from a single location.

The drawbacks of pensions dashboard alternatives

The trouble with all these arrangements, however, is that they require you to move your money to a new pension manager. The advantage of the pensions dashboard was that you would be able to see all of your savings in one place without actually having to transfer the cash. Moreover, the dashboard idea fuelled hope that the government would force pension providers to co-operate with the service. If the government does decide to scrap the plan, it may be some time before we see such a service developed in the private sector.

Cold-calling ban delayed once more

Also on the back burner is the government’s promise to ban pensions-related cold calling, including unsolicited phone calls, emails or text messages. Despite repeated promises to crack down on cold-calling amid an epidemic of pension scams and frauds, the legislation required will not be ready until the autumn at the earliest, say ministers.

Confirmation that the implementation of the ban was to be delayed once more came a fortnight ago, prompting claims from some that the government was trying to bury bad news among the media frenzy surrounding Donald Trump’s visit to the UK.

The delay leaves savers vulnerable to unscrupulous pensions salesmen and outright fraudsters. However, the message here is simple: any unsolicited communication you receive regarding pension savings should be automatically ignored. If you get a phone call, hang up straight away. If you receive a text message or email, simply delete it.