AFTER much to-ing and fro-ing the UK Government has finally confirmed that a digital pensions dashboard designed to help the 10 million people who have been automatically enrolled into workplace pensions keep track of their savings will launch next year.

But it could take years until savers get a proper overview of our increasingly complex pensions, with fears that it may never be achieved.

The dashboard was first mooted by former chancellor George Osborne amid concerns that employees who automatically pay into workplace pensions will lose track of them. Official data suggests that workers today will have an average of 11 jobs over their lifetimes and already pension pots worth an estimated £20 billion lie dormant and abandoned.

While it is possible to hunt down forgotten pots through the Pension Tracing Service, currently pensions can only be seen in one place by consolidating them, which can come with fees, investment risk and the potential loss of benefits. The idea behind the dashboard is to allow savers to log onto a free app to see what their different pots are worth and get an idea of what their retirement income might be.

Some campaigners believe that only a government-run dashboard, which includes the state pension and requires all private pension companies to surrender their data, will work fairly for consumers. But initial plans for the dashboard, published by the Government this week, suggest it will be “led” by the pensions industry and overseen by a new financial advice service known as the Single Financial Guidance Body.

The initial dashboard also will not include the state pension and pension companies can refuse to take part, although the Government has promised to make this unlawful “when parliamentary time allows”. The Work and Pensions Select Committee recently said: “Without compulsion, there will be no level playing field and not all firms will choose to provide data.”

Tom Selby, a senior analyst at AJ Bell, said the first version of the dashboard could be “limited in the extreme”.

He said: “In the age of instant online banking, people rightly have high expectations of financial companies. In this world a half-baked dashboard risks being discredited from the start.

“The Government needs to be clear with people about what the dashboard they see at launch shows them and what it will be missing. The biggest danger is that people will make poor decisions based on incomplete information – this situation must be avoided or the long-term damage to individuals and trust in pensions generally could be huge.”

The dashboard will present huge logistical problems for the pensions industry. Former pensions minister Baroness Altmann said: “Old pension records are not in a format that would allow electronic handling. To force legacy schemes to do this would result in huge costs - usually passed on to customers - and long delays.

“By focusing first on auto-enrolment, the pensions industry could provide a proper dashboard for younger workers, who will be able to see all multiple pots in one place. For those with much older pensions, the legacy records could be added over time.”

But auto-enrolment data is known to be “riddled with errors”, Baroness Altmann said, with one scheme reporting that half of the employers who use its pension were paying the wrong contributions because they misunderstood how tax relief worked. A major clean-up exercise is urgently needed, she added.

There are also concerns about conflicts of interests within the sector because pension companies will be allowed to launch their own dashboards in future, something that could undermine their co-operation with the main version. These rivals are expected to be free at the point of access, but pensions minister Guy Opperman admitted this week that costs could ultimately be passed onto savers in the form of higher plan charges. He also insisted that the Government is prepared to legislate to compel schemes to provide their data for the main dashboard, which would provide also state pension information in due course. Mr Opperman said a gradual roll-out is necessary to “protect” consumers, with the full dashboard not expected until 2022.