Who said you could go early?

25th March 2005 at 00:00
"It's no go the Government grants, it's no go the elections, Sit on your arse for 50 years and hang your hat on a pension."

Louis MacNeice, Bagpipe Music It is not only poets in search of a rhyme who see the link between elections and pensions. The public-sector unions recognised that their best chance of getting the Government to talk about the apparently "non-negotiable" pensions reforms was by threatening mayhem in the run-up to a general election.

A Labour leadership that has placed so much emphasis on "social partnership" could not countenance a strike by 1.5 million public-sector employees so close to the polls. But any celebrations at the Easter teacher union conferences would be premature. So far, the teachers seem to have been relatively fortunate. They are to be included in the "fresh start" negotiations over the Government's plans to increase the public-sector pension age from 60 to 65 even though they did nothing more than make some bellicose noises. However, it remains to be seen how much further the Government will be prepared to go to meet the unions' demands. Ministers must know that the pensions reforms have not been handled adroitly. The Government's claim that it was "modernising" teachers' pensions was particularly misjudged. Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, summed up the views of many in the profession when she described the reforms as "Victorianisation, not modernisation".

Nevertheless, the Government remains determined to reform teachers'

pensions, for the reason we all know. Teachers, like everyone else, are living to a greater age and are therefore drawing pensions longer. The fact that MPs have no plans to reform their own feather-bedded pension scheme even though they are also living longer is an interesting debating point.

But nothing more. The reality is that the Government will not be deflected from its goal of increasing the teachers' pension age. The most likely outcome is that the switch to 65 will be phased in over a longer period.

So if you are still determined to go early, start saving.

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