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PENSION REFORMS POISED FOR ENDGAME

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The next stage in talks over the future of the local government pension scheme will see the Department for Communit...
The next stage in talks over the future of the local government pension scheme will see the Department for Communities & Local Government issue a discussion paper before the end of the month.

This week the Local Government Employers organisation was submitting a list of topics it wants to see discussed. The GMB had made its submission, while Unison is expected to do so next week.

Unions have identified an improvement in accrual rates - the proportion of a final salary a worker receives - and a better deal for people taking early retirement as key aims. They also want better benefits for cohabiting partners.

Employers are believed to prefer leaving any discussion of reduction factors to actuaries. They are also likely to object to any extra costs arising from the retention of some form of protection for workers who take early retirement.

'The scheme was last revised in the 1970s,' said Naomi Cooke, pensions officer for the GMB. 'We want to see modern pensions that meet the needs of employees in this century.'

Although communities and local government secretary Ruth Kelly has assumed ministerial responsibility for the issue from deputy prime minister John Prescott, the talks continue to be led by local government minister Phil Woolas.

Formal consultations on the government's proposals will begin in the autumn. Plans for the new-look scheme will be finalised by April, ready to be implemented the following year.

Unison is pursuing a judicial review into the legal advice given to Mr Prescott when he decided, on the grounds of age discrimination, to scrap the rule of 85. This allowed a worker whose age plus years of

service add up to at least 85 to retire early without reduced benefits.

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