Awareness must be a priority

• It was refreshing to read Mike Judge’s Comment on future pension provision (Personnel Today, 30 May). There has been muted discussion on this pressing and worrying issue, and there needs to be more frank debate.

To be fair to the previous administration, the implementation of SERPs, and plans to link the state pension to RPI instead of average earnings, was a logical step, to recognise the need to cap the longer-term funding costs of the state pension, as the 1960s baby boom reaches pension age in about 20 years’ time.

Although this naturally provided the necessary encouragement for private pension provision, the hypocritical act of Gordon Brown’s taxation changes on pension fund income, while at the same time proclaiming the need for the responsibility of pension provision shifting to the individual, will prove disastrous for many.

The move by many companies to withdraw from final salary pension schemes exacerbates a problem, which cannot remain kicked into the long grass for ever, by our politicians.

For the increasing numbers that look forward to a money purchase scheme – not forgetting those existing pension holders whose future pension contributions will require uplift to mitigate this taxation change – the next worry will be, what level of annuity rates can be expected when individual pension funds reach their maturity?

As Mike Judge has hinted, the positive nature of the Government’s finances means a limited requirement for the issue of gilts which insurance companies need to support the annuities market, and which maturing pension funds have to purchase.

If one then considers our 1960s-born population retiring in 20 years’ time, factoring in a likely improvement of life expectancy, the prospects for a significant downturn in annuity values would not seem unduly pessimistic.

The level of naïvety of the general population on these issues is worrying, and we have a responsibility to improve awareness levels as a matter of priority.

Jeremy Haworth MIPD

HR manager


Flat caps give the wrong impression

• I am surprised you were able to get a picture of what looked like the Countryside Alliance on to your At-a-glance guide to Union Recognition (Personnel Today, 13 June). I’ve never seen so many cloth caps in one place.

Was this really a photograph of a union meeting or someone in your editorial office having a little bit of fun? Frankly it is an image that has no relation to most of the union meetings and conferences that I’ve attended over the past 10 years.

However, when I showed it to a group of students (mainly from non-unionised backgrounds) they said, without any prompting from me, that it was a negative image of unions that confirmed their worst fears.

Jim Hoggart

Reading, Berks

Editor’s note: The picture, of Rover employees at a union meeting, was in fact taken only one year ago.

A Net difference of opinion

• It was interesting to see an informative article on sources of information (Net interest, Personnel Today, 9 May). As an information scientist I often write such articles because many people find that locating information on the Web is not as easy as they envisage.

However, I would like to correct some of the facts under the Government heading. The Stationery Office (TSO) has not been the “official publisher to Parliament for more than 200 years”. It was created some four years ago when Her Majesty’s Stationery Office (HMSO) was privatised. HMSO had certainly been publisher to Parliament since the 18th century. However HMSO does still exist and retains certain functions in relation to Parliamentary publishing.

TSO now contracts with HMSO to provide printing and publishing services to Parliament and, if I am not mistaken, the contract is either up for re-tender at present or shortly will be. In the new arrangement TSO could publish for parts of the Government but not for Parliament if it lost the contract. It does publish for the Scottish Parliament.

The Stationery Office did not launch a web service called intsofficial.net. It was prevented from using that name. The service launched was ukstate.com as mentioned in the Financial Times for 24 May. A certain amount of incorrect publicity does exist as the name was changed in February. However, it had been thoroughly corrected by the time you published.

I am a long-serving member of the Standing Committee on Official Publications of the Library Association (LA, ISG), and we were aware of the change and discussed the implications that the late name change had on publicity, at our meeting on 10 May.

As a postscript it would have been nice to see ISM’s web site in the list of relevant institute sites – www.ismstowe.demon.co.uk

Valerie Nurcombe

Information Services Manager


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