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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 August, 2004, 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
Pension help plan 'less than 10 a week'
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The 400m that the government has offered to compensate workers who have lost their pensions works out at less than 10 a week per person, Britain's top pensions professional has told the BBC.

In May, responding to intense backbench pressure, the government said it would table an amendment to the Pensions Bill to allow the setting up of the fund.

It pledged to pay the money in instalments over 20 years to the estimated 60,000 workers believed to have lost some or all of their pension when their employers went bust.

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But Michael Pomery, president of the Institute of Actuaries, told the File On 4 programme that the 400m figure went nowhere near replacing the amount people had lost.

"I'd certainly say it comes to less than 10 a week.

Protection Fund

"The amount of money you would need to fully replace the pensions would be a much higher figure."

Restoring confidence in pensions is now high on the government's agenda.

In addition to the 400m compensation, from April next year its new Pension Protection Fund will start replacing most of the pensions lost by members whose funds fail after that date.

It's 20m stretched over 20 years so the help that it's going to give us is worthless"
Hughie Hill
The PPF will raise the money it needs from levies charged on all final salary schemes.

But the scale of the UK's pension crisis now threatens to overwhelm the government's entire rescue package.

One of the cases followed by File On 4 is that of a victim of the wind up of the busmaking firm the Mayflower Group.

40% pension

Mayflower, which boasted former Prime Minster John Major as its director, took over bus suppliers Dennis in the late 1990s.

When it collapsed earlier this year with a 20m hole in its books, it stopped contributing to the Dennis pension scheme.

After paying the pensions of people already retired, there was only enough money for around 40% of the pension expected by those leaving work from this year.

Recently retired Hughie Hill told the programme: "I thought the 400m would be shared with other companies immediately to top up our deficit but it's 20m stretched over 20 years so the help that it's going to give us is worthless."

File On 4: BBC Radio 4: Tuesday 3 August at 2000 BST and repeated on Sunday 8 August at 1700 BST.


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