Michael Johnson

Michael trained with JP Morgan in New York and, after 21 years in investment banking, joined Towers Watson, the actuarial consultants. Subsequently he was responsible for the running of David Cameron’s Economic Competitiveness Policy Group, working with Oliver Letwin, John Redwood and Lord Wolfson (CEO of Next plc). The Group examined some of the main barriers to prosperity, focussing on deregulation, energy, public sector effectiveness, retirement savings and pensions, skills, STEM and transport.  

Michael is the author of Don’t let this crisis go to waste (CPS, 2009), in which he proposes a radically simplified State Pension structure and amendments to the (flawed) NEST.  This was followed by Simplification is the key (CPS, 2010), backed by Conservative and Labour peers, which highlights the ludicrous complexity of our pensions and savings arena and promotes the idea of unifying the ISA and pension worlds.  The paper goes on to visualise the long term savings Holy Grail, namely a single, unified tax regime for ISAs and all pensions products.

Michael then focused on the challenge of reforming public sector pensions, with Self-sufficiency is the key (CPS, 2011), again backed by Conservative and Labour peers.  The paper concludes that a pure DC framework is inevitable, after an interim period of (politically palatable) CARE-based DB.  The £100 billion negotiations, (CPS, 2011) followed, which describes how the Government is being out-manoeuvred by the unions in the public sector pensions negotiations.  It goes on to propose a way forward.

This was followed by Pensions: bring back the 10p rebate, and goodbye higher rate relief (CPS, 2012), and then Put the saver first; catalysing a savings culture (CPS, 2012), again backed by Conservative and Labour peers, which makes 104 proposals, predominately concerned with how the industry itself could put the saver at the centre of everything it does.

The theme of tax incentives for retirement saving was revisited in Costly and ineffective: why pension tax reliefs should be reformed (CPS, 2012), and A toxic tangle (CPS, 2013) followed, which examines the damaging interaction between the Public Service Pensions Bill and the DWP’s White Paper for a single tier state pension. This revealed a potential annual hole of up to £9 billion in the Treasury’s coffers, and prompted a briefing request from Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the Public Accounts Committee.

Michael’s attention then switched back to the public sector, with The Local Government Pension Scheme: opportunity knocks (CPS, 2013), which highlighted the LGPS’s inefficiencies. The paper makes a series of proposals to rectify them, prompting invitations to discussions with both DCLG and the Cabinet Office. The Pensions Bill 2013-14 catalysed Aggregation is the key: retirement saving nirvana for consumers (CPS, 2013), which was subsequently referred to by several peers during debates in the House of Lords. 

Further papers are planned, including proposals to merge the pension and ISA worlds into a single lifetime savings vehicle.

Michael has given oral and written evidence to both the DWP Select Committee inquiry into Governance and Best Practice in Workplace Pension Provision, and the House of Lords Select Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change.

Michael can be contacted by email on [email protected]


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