Thank goodness for Hutton

Sector G

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Whether you subscribe to the “absurdly over-generous” or “exceedingly parsimonious” schools. the chances are that some aspects of Lord Hutton‘s report on public sector pensions will have got right up your nose.

The quality of vox pop debate I heard was pretty dire with views polarised and little constructive thought on how we organise our public finances to provide a fair settlement.

Perhaps the only area where I heard general consensus was that pensions needed to be treated as part of total reward and that any strategy for public sector pensions must be part of a wider settlement on public sector pay.

 I  surprised by the level of complacency among many public sector workers who have made assumptions on their “rights” to employment, py and pensions. I am also surprised by the anger of those in the private sector at this complacency. Neither the complacency or anger are constructive.

Which brings me on to Hutton’s report and the title of this piece. The report was never going to create a consensus since the lack of understanding between the two poles of the debate is extreme and since there is no proper means for the man in the street to value the matter in hand – the accrual of the pensions.

What the report could do – and does – is frame the debate in a language which allows both public and private sectors to at least discuss the issues. We are not dealing with sectarianism here –  there is, thank God, no religious element to the debate. The debate is about money and fairness, about service and entrepreneurship, risk and reward.

We can put values on these things – we can come to a settlement provided that the debate is carried out in a sane reasonable way. If we can get through this debate without a strike – or violent marches or event he kind of slanging-matches I heard on the radio waves last week, we will have taken a massive leap forward.

For twenty years, both in and out of Government, the Labour Party ducked the big political issues Hutton addresses. Most heinously, Gordon Brown repeatedly failed to take political responsibility for the detoriation of the consensus on how we organise our second and third tier pensions.

Hats off to the coalition to tackling this subject and congratulations to Lord Hutton for establishing a debate which both in content and tone has the potential to let us reorganise our society upon fairer and more efficient lines.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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