On the sixth day of Christmas...


My true love sent to me: six geese a-laying. In the song, this seems to refer to the six days of creation.

The goose that laid golden eggs in Britain was our occupational pension system. Businesses would open a pension scheme run by independent trustees, encouraging workers to join it and putting in some money themselves. By 1997, Britain’s workplace pensions savings were larger than the rest of Europe’s put together.

The 97,900 work-based pension schemes that existed in 1997 have now shrunk to just 53,801 – and falling. Of those, 18,990 no longer accept new members, 4,354 are frozen, and 1,779 are being wound up. Less than a third of the 1997 figure are still active and open to new employee members. By the end of 2007 there were about a million less active members of occupational pension schemes than there were just three years earlier. Less than half of those who work in the private sector are now paying into a pension. At the current rate of decline, there will be no contributors at all by 2020. The demise of this once-thriving savings sector is one reason why more and more people now face hard times when they retire.

The sole person responsible for this is Gordon Brown. It goes back to the ending of dividend credits on advance corporation tax, which Brown slipped into his first Budget speech in 1997. It was a typical Brown stealth tax – one that few people understood, and which fewer would even notice until they came to retire many years later. And it has taken about £175 billion out of the pockets of pension savers and put it into the Treasury’s. That is equivalent to a tax of £16,600 on every private pension saver.