But to those of us who have been around in local government human resources management for more years than we may care to remember, it heralds the end of a long-established right - the immediate payment at 50 or over of a pension (usually with added years) on redundancy or retirement in the interests of the efficiency of the service.
This latter phrase has conveniently never been defined and its elastic meaning has been applied to a variety of often contentious situations, allowing staff to leave on agreed terms without the need for an acrimonious battle in employment tribunals.
The existing early retirement provisions on redundancy and efficiency grounds have their origins in a famous letter of dispensation from the Department of the Environment in 1976, whose contents were later confirmed by way of regulation. The 1976 letter was issued in response to the financial crisis facing a number of councils, which, for the first time, were having to make many staff redundant.
In its 1997 report, Retiring nature, the Audit Commission signalled the end of what many critics saw as a gravy train, and very few, if any, officers now retire on quite such generous terms.
More recently, the Inland Revenue in its consultation paper Simplifying the taxation of pensions has said by 2010 the earliest age at which pension benefits become payable - apart from ill-health cases - should be 55.
A number of councils, as well as the Employers' Organisation, have said the
change should come in from April 2005 for local government and the ODPM is now proposing this.
It is also being suggested that an unreduced pension at 55 should no longer be an entitlement on redundancy, though councils would have the ability to provide such a benefit if they wished.
So it is goodbye to 50 as the magic age to attain. Although the forthcoming changes are no doubt justified on policy and financial grounds, they will provide a real challenge as to how to handle those problematic employment cases which, in the past, have been resolved relatively easily. Far more issues could come before the courts.
Director, HR Consulting, Tribal GWT