Pension legislation to go ahead
The Government is pressing ahead with legislation to enact its controversial public sector pension reform in the new year, even though an agreement has not been reached with unions to end the bitter dispute.
Ministers made clear they had made a final offer, saying it was a "fair deal" for workers and the taxpayer, which would save billions of pounds in the coming years.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander told MPs that "heads of agreements" had been reached with most unions during lengthy negotiations covering local government, NHS, civil service and teaching pension schemes.
But a number of unions said they will not be signing up at this stage, the biggest civil service union took legal advice over claims it was "excluded" from talks, and a last-minute row blew up over the local government scheme.
The GMB warned it would reconsider its position after new conditions had been laid down in a letter from the department run by Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles.
Mr Alexander said later that the letter had been withdrawn, adding: "It is not a position that has been agreed. A replacement letter will be issued."
He told the Commons that the changes to pensions delivered the Government's key objectives of amending them to a career average arrangement, leading to public sector staff working longer before they receive a pension and paying higher contributions.
Heads of agreement have been reached with the NHS Pension Scheme, the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme, the Teachers' Pension Scheme and the Local Government Pensions Scheme, based on an improved offer made on November 2, said Mr Alexander.
The agreements all deliver on the approach set out in a report by former Labour minister Lord Hutton, with further work on the remaining details set to take place in the new year.
Most unions had agreed to suspend any further industrial action while the final details are resolved and they consult their members, said ministers.