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David Prosser: Pension plan is nothing more than hot air

Outlook So after all the nasties, those public sector jobs, the removal of child benefit from anyone earning top-rate tax (even if they're not that rich) and the rest, it's time to throw the public a bone or two. Step forward the Pensions minister, Steve Webb, with a bold (and carefully leaked) plan to bring in a flat-rate state pension of £140 for all... well, at least those with sufficient time as residents of this country to have paid a decent amount of tax and NI.

Some of the money for this will come from picking apart the horribly complex mess of the current state pension system, which was bequeathed by the previous Labour government. It will not be enough, though, because this marvellous idea (due to be published later this year) is quite unaffordable in this age of austerity, whatever the savings from efficiency gains and abandoning means testing. The Business Secretary Vince Cable, cutting a dash by promising a "radical overhaul" of the pension system, is well aware of that uncomfortable fact.