mefacebookIn a no-punches-pulled, scathing attack on Camerlot Pensions Minister Ros ‘Jewels’ Altmann  yesterday, the boss of leading charity Pensions Life, Angela Brooks, said the British government’s Pension Minister had “failed this and future generations of British pensioners and pension savers”. Brooks added, in relation to Altmann, “Our members say they feel let down and that their faith in her was misplaced.  To say that they feel disappointed would be an understatement”. But last night a DWP source told The Slog that Ros Altmann’s appointment was “a PR move” designed to sweeten the pill of Camerlot attacks on State pensions.

Angela Brooks set up Pension Life to identify and prevent pension scams, close loopholes in pension law and rescue victims of pension fraud. Her blistering attack on Ros Altmann comes as the former Saga boss completes her first year in office.

“12 months ago, older people broadly welcomed her appointment,” said Brooks, “They thought they could continue to count on her support.  They thought that here was a Pensions Minister who thoroughly understood the issues and truly had pensioners’ best interests at heart….However, it seems like she has been shackled by the office. Her inaction – willing or unwilling – and her refusal to engage has been alarming and it has failed this and future generations of British pensioners….She has turned her back on many of the big, important issues. For example, she was, many argue, a turncoat to the WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) campaigners who have spoken out against her for her refusal to support their demand for financial help for women born in the 1950s, who are now seeing their state pension age moved from 60 to 66 without notice. In addition, Altmann is still refusing to engage with victims of pension scams and has failed to take up calls from Pension Life and others to form a task force to crack down on such scams which are having a devastating effect on victims across the country and internationally.”

Whether she’s had her arm twisted or merely taken the Camerlot shilling remains an open question. But either way – given her self-proclaimed track record as a pensioner’s champion – anyone with an ounce of the Right Stuff would resign. This, Ms Altmann shows no sign of doing….which is par for the course with those in public office these days.

A former DWP insider last night told The Slog, “Altmann was a cynical appointment from Day 1….pure window-dressing, a classic Cameron PR move to distract from the government’s failure to catch scam spivs in the private sector,  and obvious desire to keep down the cost of State pensions. I think she knew this from the start. Her sole contribution after a year has been to warn people not to be scammed, and tell everyone her hands are tied on the WASPI issue.”

The Brooks attack coincides disastrously for the Pensions Minister with lachrymose attempts to rehabilitate herself on Twitter – see my somewhat sour observation:


I’ve been widely blocked by people on all sides of the WASPI pensions issue for what has been described in some tweets/emails to me as my ‘interfering’, ‘aggressive’ and ‘unhelpful’ attitude to WASPI strategy on righting what is quite clearly a wrong.

I will take a few lines if I may to clarify my interest in the issue – which is socio-economic and cultural but not in any way political.

I’m not in the position that getting on for 350+ thousand Fifties women now have to bear: straitened circumstances and in many cases utter destitution. But I have been the victim of a financial sector with the morals of a crocodile….and this has reduced my retirement from one of comfort to penny-watching.

Both the DWP and the Treasury are now employing and being advised by former suppliers in that sector. I warned when this process began that employing crocodiles would mean easy prey being eaten. This has come to pass on everything from fitness to work, benefit cuts for the disabled, and the Great Waspi Pension Welch.

These are the events that slashed my net worth by some 64%:

  1. On retiring, I put my SIPP in the hands of supposed management experts. In two years, the pot fell by 30% in a rapidly changing stock market. When I looked at the transactions record, they had done nothing. Not a single thing. That was £90,000 down the drain.
  2. The same year, I took my capital outside the pension and put it into a Scottish Widows retirement bond via their owner Lloyds Bank. This enabled me – according to the sell and the documentation – to withdraw 10% tax free and have the full sum refunded after ten years. After three years of withdrawals I eventually demanded a statement. It showed my fund was 30% smaller.  And the 10 year commitment had been ‘revised’….to nothing. That was another £60,000 gone.
  3. In 2009, the Zirp policy was introduced. Over seven years, lost interest has cost me in excess of £28,600, assuming a 3.5% rate.
  4. 2010 saw the massively increased use of QE – to no good economic effect. But it also turned a bear market into a bull market….purely by direct central bank cheating. That cost me another £115,000, as I had sensibly (assuming a level playing field) taken out bear notes as a hedge.

Since 2012 – when my father died and left me some money – I have handled all my own financial affairs. Without a very successful investment in gold I would today be in a parlous position; as it is, my private pension is in cash but I now need to draw upon that and depend upon a State pension I had beforehand envisaged as a ‘nice to have’ rather than my saviour from insolvency.

Now the prospect of bank bailins has been raised, I have moved most of my liquidity into the sole property I have here in France. I didn’t really want to do that, and it has been three years of stress and back-breaking effort…instead of enjoying a reasonable retirement. But I’d rather that than some sociopath telling me RBS has gone bust and so sorry, you’re a creditor, so you must pay.

I don’t doubt that the comment thread to this piece will be full of sarcasm and wiseassed investment advice. But I will tell you, through all the appeals to regulators and pleas to MPs that followed each of these disasters, after a while I began to recognise the look of smug, smiling indifference and obfuscation. And that’s why these days I say to those not as fortunately connected as I am (or rather, was) “These people are ill and they don’t bloody care”.

That’s why my heart goes out to Nick Wilson and his solo quest to bring HSBC to justice. That’s why I have total empathy with the WASPI women. That’s why I support those NHS whistleblowers who were encouraged by Jeremy Hunt, who now refuses to deal with their blatantly political dismissals. That’s why I retweet every Junior Doctor making sound points on Twitter, and hammer on about Hunt’s disgraceful rise on the back of nepotism. And above all, that’s why I am 100% behind Brexit from the EU, NATO and every other half-arsed bit of geopolitical megalomania ruining lives, destroying States, and creating millions of refugees around the world.

It has nothing to do with ‘politics’ and everything to do with decency. It is about my intense dislike of bullies, cheats, unearned privilege, jargonised bollocks, illiberal ideology, religious extremism, big brainless process, and the global acceptance of sociopathy as somehow normal.

People often ask why I’m so angry. The only possible answer is “There’s a lot to be angry about”.

Connected from yesterday’s Slog: Waspis, doctors & Brexiteers in the firing line