Hutton needs to hit ground running at DWP

The new work and pensions secretary will have his work cut out addressing UK pensions reform following David Blunkett’s departure, experts have warned.

John Hutton, former cabinet office minister, was announced as work and pensions secretary last week, just hours after Blunkett resigned for breaking ministerial code.

With just weeks until the Pension Commission announces its final recommendations on addressing the UK’s £57bn pensions deficit on 30 November, Hutton faces a “baptism of fire”, said Alan Pickering, partner at consultancy Watson Wyatt.

“The pensions deficit is the biggest challenge on the government’s domestic agenda,” he told Personnel Today. “It is difficult for a new secretary to act with the same momentum as someone who has been in office for some time. He will have a mountain to climb – I hope he’s a good mountaineer.”

The new secretary of state will need the “common touch” to explain complex issues to the public, as well as the ability to “bang heads together”, as the government will not be able to please everyone, Pickering added.

John Philpott, chief economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, urged the government to remain focused.

“The government must not allow itself to be distracted from the urgent need to tackle pensions deficits and to address issues surrounding retirement ages,” he said.

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