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Lansley memo attacked pension plans


Health secretary Andrew Lansley has privately attacked the government’s public sector pension shake-up, it was revealed today.

In a letter to Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander, he condemned elements of the reforms as “inappropriate” and “unrealistic”.

The changes would hit women health workers particularly hard, and do not meet the coalition’s “commitment to maintain gold-standard pensions”.

The damning critique, obtained by the Daily Telegraph, was penned two months ago after a paper describing the proposals was circulated to the Cabinet.

Mr Lansley’s views are likely to be seized on by unions, who have threatened national strikes over the controversial issue in the autumn. Previously Tory ministers were thought to be supportive of the plans.

Under the reforms outlined by Liberal Democrat Mr Alexander last month, public sector workers will retire later, contribute more to pensions, and receive payouts based on average career earnings, rather than final salary.

The letter from the health secretary - who oversees Britain’s biggest public sector employer - was sent two months ago.

Referring to the document distributed to ministers, he said: “The paper … assumes that public sector workers, many of whom are women, will work a 48-year career (to get a full pension).

“In the NHS currently, the average full time career for those taking a pension is only 18 years and it seems unrealistic to suggest that pension scheme design should be based on the assumption that a predominantly female workforce would need to work full-time, 48-year careers in future to receive a full pension.

“It is also difficult to see how this meets our commitment to maintain gold-standard pensions.”

Mr Lansley criticised other parts of the proposed reforms - drawn up following a government report by former Labour minister Lord Hutton - for being particularly unfair to NHS workers.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Things have moved on since this was written.

“Last month the chief secretary set out the government’s commitment to protect the low paid and ensure low and middle income earners get a pension at retirement broadly as good as they get now.

“And less than 10 days ago the whole of Cabinet signed up to the need for pension reform and agreed to further talks taking place on a scheme by scheme basis.”


Readers' comments (5)

  • As far as I can see this shows he has not read the Scheme properly. The old scheme required staff to work 40 years to achieve a fulll pension [50% of final salary]. The new scheme - which I opted into - only needs 30 years to achieve the same benefits.
    Politicians are often intelligent - and he is right to indicate that with an 18 year average staff will NOT get a full pension; but please get the facts straight!
    FWIW I would welcome a career average pension as I would like to downgrade to a Band 5 for personal satisfaction and to work directly with patients. I cannot do this at the moment without losing a huge amount of dosh.... Then again I am also a rarity as I am hoping to work until at least 68 [and I know this is impossible for those in care of the elderly as it could be too physically demanding]. Perhaps what we need is a degree of flexibility to allow the service to benefit from oldies who want to work on - possibly part time, without them being penalised. Might they be allowed to take the pension at 65 but to work on still whilst paying into the scheme?

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  • I find it difficult to see how anyone could have a 48 year career in the NHS, having spent 3 or more years getting a degree qualification (nurse, therapist, etc) and retire at 65. The minimum age for retirement to get a full pension would appear to be 69 (18 +3 +48) and that's without any breaks for having children!

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  • michael stone

    A little off topic, but this seems to have 2 points of interest.
    Firstly, it appears that AL was actually 'working in the interests of NHS staff' in there, which does not invariably seem to be true of ministers.
    Secondly, it highlights the arguments that ministers have before agreeing a policy (which they like to keep secret and not describe) and the 'collective responsibility' which means they line up behind the policy decided upon, once it has been announced (defended by the 'things have moved on' argument, here, because you have seen some of the debate).

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  • I hope Danny Alexander listens to Andrew Lansley comments. I opted to stay with the old pension even though I only have 20 years service as I need to have the option to go at 55, as much as I enjoy looking after my patients it is getting too physically demanding and I am only in my mid 50,s, also the change in management attitudes is getting to me it is very much a blame culture with no common sense and no real understanding of the ward nurse role.

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  • there will be no nhs left anyway in 3 years time..we will all be working for private companies

    im off to new zealand in october, carnt wait

    the nhs is finished!!

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