This week’s financial news was full of pension regulation tweaks and bad news from bailed-out banks.
In pensions, the Government suggested that firms in financial trouble could be allowed to reduce the generosity of pensions. A discussion paper on defined benefit (DB) pension schemes said that financially “stressed” companies might be able to reduce pension promises.
According to the Government paper around 5% of companies are in this category. It is estimated that around 11million people are members of private DB schemes.
The discussion paper also mooted the idea that some companies could be allowed to adjust the way they up-rate pensions to compensate for inflation. Instead of using the Retail Prices Index, companies could be allowed to use the Consumer Prices Index, which is usually lower than the retail index.
Pension experts are concerned the changes would adversely affect pensioners and it is estimated this change could cost the average pensioner up to £20,000 over the course of their retirement.
The pensions industry is now being asked to comment on the paper.
Staying with pensions, Citizens Advice has reported that tens of thousands of women could be missing out on a workplace pension as they have multiple jobs.
For employees to qualify for an auto-enrolment pension, they have to earn at least £10,000 a year, yet Citizens Advice estimates that more than 100,000 people, the majority of whom are women, don’t earn £10,000 with one employer. The Government said that it is planning to review this later in the year.
In banking, the Royal Bank of Scotland reported a loss of £7billion in 2016. That was treble what it lost in 2015. The bank is 72% owned by the tax payer after being bailed out by the Government following the financial crash.
RBS’s chief executive Ross McEwan said that the bank plans to cut costs by £2billion in the next four years, which includes closing branches and losing jobs in an effort to save money and recoup losses.
In housing, a poll by news provider Reuters suggests that the British housing market is set for a lull as the Government negotiates Brexit.
Average prices are now at many multiples of the average salary, particularly in London, the poll suggests that prices are set to keep pace with inflation, or even drop behind in the coming years.
This survey comes off the back of recent data suggesting that consumer spending, job hiring and pay increases are slowing following the EU referendum.
Pay increases were in the news as well this week, as a survey found that pay rises in the three months to January 2017 stayed at 2%, the same as 2015.
Average UK pay rises by British companies in January – the second most-common month for them to take effect – was unchanged from January 2016 and represented only a small increase from the average 1.9% in the final three months of last year.
The Bank of England also reported that firms it had spoken to expected to lower their average pay offer to 2.2% this year, compared to 2.7 % in 2016.