Minister's pension promise to firefighters challenged

Claims Penny Mordaunt has 'yet to produce any evidence' that she can deliver on guarantee for those unable to find continued work in the fire service
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The Independent Online

Critics have accused a minister of making a key concession to a contentious pensions plan which she will not be able to honour. Communities minister Penny Mordaunt last week promised any firefighter aged 55 or over would receive "unreduced" pensions if ill-health or poor fitness, together with the unavailability of desk jobs, meant they could not find continued work in the fire service.

The promise, made in the House of Commons, helped the Government win a vote on reforms to fire service pensions. David Ward and Mike Thornton, Liberal Democrat MPs for Bradford East and Eastleigh respectively, had planned to vote against the coalition measure but admitted Ms Mordaunt's promise of a better deal for older firefighters had secured their support.

Matt Wrack, the Fire Brigades Union general secretary, has asked lawyers to review the proposal, as he believes setting early pension rates is in the gift of individual fire service employers, not the Government.

Hilary Benn, the shadow Communities Secretary, said Ms Mordaunt had "yet to produce any evidence" that she could deliver the guarantee.

The Government claims many firefighters currently retire at 50, leaving the taxpayer to fund a huge pension deficit. The moves to curb this have prompted a series of strikes, masterminded by the FBU.

A Communities and Local Government department spokesman said: "In the unlikely event a firefighter cannot reach their normal pension age because of ill-health and they are 55 or over, they would, of course, be eligible for an ill-health pension."

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