Labour urged to restore value of Serps

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The Independent Online
Labour should raise the basic state pension, restore its link to earnings and reconstruct Serps, the state earnings related pension scheme whose final value the Government has cut by over two-thirds, two leading Labour academics said yesterday, writes Nicholas Timmins.

The alternatives - advanced by Labour's Commission on Social Justice and likely to be adopted by Labour - are "unconvincing and incomplete", Peter Townsend, vice-president of the Fabian Society and Emeritus Professor of Social Policy at Bristol University, says in a paper written with Alan Walker, Professor of Social Policy at Sheffield University.

Professor Townsend is a leading pensions expert and co-author of the 1955 pamphlet New Pensions for Old, which culminated in Serps 20 years on. In the Fabian pamphlet published today, the two say Labour needs to grasp the fact "the welfare state is popular and, above all, pensions are popular". Private pensions are of little use to those without a full working career and particularly to women.

They concede the costs of state pensions will rise as the population ages. But the "demographic timebomb" has been grossly exaggerated, they say.

t The Future of Pensions; Townsend and Walker; Fabian Society; pounds 10.