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Clock ticks on deal to avert fresh walkouts

The bitter dispute between the Government and public sector workers over pensions reaches D-Day today with last-ditch talks aimed at averting fresh strikes in the new year.

Ministers are believed to have given unions a deadline of 3pm today to reach agreement during a final round of discussions on the future of four schemes covering local government workers, NHS staff, civil servants and teachers.

A union source close to the talks said a deal looked increasingly likely on local government pensions but he accused the Government of being “hell-bent on confrontation” on other schemes. Up to two million workers went on strike last month in protest at the controversial pension changes, and intensive talks have been held to try to break the deadlock.

Meetings will be held across Whitehall today, with Francis Maude, Cabinet Office Minister, and Danny Alexander, Treasury Chief Secretary, wanting any agreement to be made by 3pm.

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