David Blake traces the history of public sector pensions, private occupational schemes and state pensions in the United Kingdom. The historical information is of necessity brief but it does go back to 1375, the date of the first recorded occupational pension scheme.
But the bulk of the book is about the different types of pension available today. Blake does not attempt to judge the best form of provision. He sets out clearly the facts regarding each type of pension arrangement, but readers are left to conduct their own research into the details of the specific pension or provider they use. There are tables making comparisons between providers, though they can be out of date. For instance, though the book was published in 1995, the open market option table is based upon May 1988 annuity rates.
Over the past few years there have been a number of high-profile pension issues which have been debated in the press. There is a brief history of each along with the main cases that brought it into the public realm. The Maxwell affair looms large in this section and, to his credit, Blake provides a succinct summary of what was a long and involved case.
There is also a chapter on the day-to-day management of pension fund assets. Again the information is clear, though again much of the data is out-of-date. But there is sufficient detail for the reader to obtain a broad understanding of the principles of a complicated subject.
Despite being 17 pages in length, the index is disappointing. Nevertheless, because each chapter has a clear description of its contents at the beginning, it is often possible to find an item without referring to the index.
The final chapter describes the ideal pension scheme. Blake uses 15 characteristics to define such a scheme, though whether or not his is the best will depend upon the reader's own perspective. What is clear is that it is based on extensive research.
At the outset Blake states that he has tried to "bring together a mass of information and organise it in a coherent manner." To a large extent he succeeds. Any criticisms are minor and do not detract from what is a well-written book that will be a useful reference for anybody with an interest in pension provision in the UK.
Nigel E. Webb is a senior manager, Equitable Life Assurance Society.
Pension Schemes and Pension Funds in the United Kingdom
Author - David Blake
ISBN - 0 19 828623 6
Publisher - Clarendon Press, Oxford
Price - £65.00
Pages - 607