Tory predicts yellow revolution

Conservative council hopeful Martine Martin predicts that Hull is set for a yellow (Lib Dem) revolut

'This is a one of those years where it is a bad year to be Labour and it is a good year to be anything else but Labour.'

Or so says Councillor John Fareham, one of the only two Conservative Councillors in Hull City Council. Unsurprisingly, I happen to agree with him. But it seems I am not alone.

To give a little background information on the area, Hull is traditionally a Labour stronghold (it is, after all, the home of John Prescott and Alan Johnson, amongst others). Coincidently, it was also dubbed the "worst council in England" by the CPS both in 2004 and 2005, during the twilight years of Labour's council-level rule there. But let's not dwell.

Last year the council was given over to Liberal Democrat control. They had to form a minority administration and, according to Labour Councillor Gary Wareing, came close to holding a vote of no confidence in themselves last October. Yes, you read that right.

It's a curious state of affairs in Hull. The way things stand, there are 59 council seats, with the Liberal Democrats holding 24 and Labour holding 25.

There are also 2 Conservatives and the rest are made up by independents of varying hue. With the Liberal Democrats set to make a number of gains, possibly even to the point of taking overall control, one might think that life is rosy for the yellow team these days.

Not so. Hull City Council does seem to have a problem with keeping its councillors in their own corners, with Liberal Democrats crossing the floor all over the place. 13 have left the group since 2002, including 2 who have made a break for it since the formation of their minority administration.

They have reputedly overspent to the tune of 5 million already. Council tax is well above inflation. All is not well.

Yet everyone in a position to know seems to be in agreement; they could pledge to make Smurf hats a legal requirement in Hull and they would still be set for an excellent year. While Labour are concentrating on ways to soften the blow caused by national government ineptitude and the Conservatives are fighting to take control of East Riding instead, Hull is wide open for a "yellow revolution", as one enthusiastic Liberal Democrat I know put it.

I would have to agree, so long as they can keep their Councillors on their side of the ring in the future.

Martine Martin, 21, is studying politics at Hull and a well known Tory blogger. She is active in Conservative Future and standing for Hull council
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Stability is essential to solve the pension problem

The new chancellor must ensure we have a period of stability for pension policymaking in order for everyone to acclimatise to a new era of personal responsibility in retirement, says 

There was a time when retirement seemed to take care of itself. It was normal to work, retire and then receive the state pension plus a company final salary pension, often a fairly generous figure, which also paid out to a spouse or partner on death.

That normality simply doesn’t exist for most people in 2016. There is much less certainty on what retirement looks like. The genesis of these experiences also starts much earlier. As final salary schemes fall out of favour, the UK is reaching a tipping point where savings in ‘defined contribution’ pension schemes become the most prevalent form of traditional retirement saving.

Saving for a ‘pension’ can mean a multitude of different things and the way your savings are organised can make a big difference to whether or not you are able to do what you planned in your later life – and also how your money is treated once you die.

George Osborne established a place for himself in the canon of personal savings policy through the introduction of ‘freedom and choice’ in pensions in 2015. This changed the rules dramatically, and gave pension income a level of public interest it had never seen before. Effectively the policymakers changed the rules, left the ring and took the ropes with them as we entered a new era of personal responsibility in retirement.

But what difference has that made? Have people changed their plans as a result, and what does 'normal' for retirement income look like now?

Old Mutual Wealth has just released. with YouGov, its third detailed survey of how people in the UK are planning their income needs in retirement. What is becoming clear is that 'normal' looks nothing like it did before. People have adjusted and are operating according to a new normal.

In the new normal, people are reliant on multiple sources of income in retirement, including actively using their home, as more people anticipate downsizing to provide some income. 24 per cent of future retirees have said they would consider releasing value from their home in one way or another.

In the new normal, working beyond your state pension age is no longer seen as drudgery. With increasing longevity, the appeal of keeping busy with work has grown. Almost one-third of future retirees are expecting work to provide some of their income in retirement, with just under half suggesting one of the reasons for doing so would be to maintain social interaction.

The new normal means less binary decision-making. Each choice an individual makes along the way becomes critical, and the answers themselves are less obvious. How do you best invest your savings? Where is the best place for a rainy day fund? How do you want to take income in the future and what happens to your assets when you die?

 An abundance of choices to provide answers to the above questions is good, but too much choice can paralyse decision-making. The new normal requires a plan earlier in life.

All the while, policymakers have continued to give people plenty of things to think about. In the past 12 months alone, the previous chancellor deliberated over whether – and how – to cut pension tax relief for higher earners. The ‘pensions-ISA’ system was mooted as the culmination of a project to hand savers complete control over their retirement savings, while also providing a welcome boost to Treasury coffers in the short term.

During her time as pensions minister, Baroness Altmann voiced her support for the current system of taxing pension income, rather than contributions, indicating a split between the DWP and HM Treasury on the matter. Baroness Altmann’s replacement at the DWP is Richard Harrington. It remains to be seen how much influence he will have and on what side of the camp he sits regarding taxing pensions.

Meanwhile, Philip Hammond has entered the Treasury while our new Prime Minister calls for greater unity. Following a tumultuous time for pensions, a change in tone towards greater unity and cross-department collaboration would be very welcome.

In order for everyone to acclimatise properly to the new normal, the new chancellor should commit to a return to a longer-term, strategic approach to pensions policymaking, enabling all parties, from regulators and providers to customers, to make decisions with confidence that the landscape will not continue to shift as fundamentally as it has in recent times.

Steven Levin is CEO of investment platforms at Old Mutual Wealth.

To view all of Old Mutual Wealth’s retirement reports, visit: products-and-investments/ pensions/pensions2015/