Michael’s pension payout is for for St Luke’s, not Lamborghinis

Mike Gunn with church wardens June Smith and Haylor Lass outside St Luke's church. Ref shs 5365-15-1

Mike Gunn with church wardens June Smith and Haylor Lass outside St Luke's church. Ref shs 5365-15-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

A retired chartered accountant saw this week’s pension reforms as a chance to donate cash to Newton Poppleford’s church – and he hopes the generous move inspires others to do likewise.

Michael Gunn delayed claiming his pension so he could take advantage of the new lump sum offer - and boost St Luke’s £250,000 bid for an extension.

He defied media speculation that the money would be blown on flashy cars, but does plans to take a transatlantic cruise to mark a marriage milestone.

“We’ve got a great church and this is a really good opportunity to renew it,” said the 57-year-old, who sits on the parochial church council. “It can go from strength to strength.”

Church leaders are preparing plans to build an extension onto St Luke’s with disabled toilets and a meeting facility after its hall burned down in 2010.

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They have some insurance money, but are due to launch a fundraising drive to meet the six-figure target.

Michael was thrust into the limelight as an early adopter by pension providers Hargreaves Lansdown and had interviews with Radio 4, Radio 5live and The Times.

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“I said to the vicar, Mark Ward, it [the media attention] can’t do any harm,” he said. “Who knows what might come of it?

“The press was going on about buying Lamborghinis, but I thought it would be nice to give some money away.”

The father of two also plans to splash out on a cruise in this ‘really special’ year – his daughter, Emma, is getting married and he is marking the 30th anniversary of his own marriage to wife Fiona.

Churchwarden Haylor Lass described Michael’s donation as ‘a great incentive for other people to think generously’.

Michael has an interest in pensions and has offered to help inform others of the reforms through the Citizens Advice Bureau. The reforms are meant to give people more control over their pensions.

Claimants can now take out the whole amount as a lump sum, withdraw several smaller amounts to pay less tax, or do nothing.

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