Public sector pensions - on a knife edge

Negotiations over public sector are said to be "on a knife edge". Ministers across Whitehall are waiting nervously for news back from their officials.

They are already hearing some good news - a senior local government source has told the BBC's Mike Sergeant that agreement has been reached between councils and the unions on the "principles" of a deal. The NUT's Christine Blower has told the BBC she is optimistic about a deal for teachers. Health unions are in negotiations this morning.

If - and it is still very much an if - they settle, all eyes will be on the civil service unions.

Ministers have never expected the PCS led by the outspoken Mark Serwotka to do a deal but they have always hoped that the other unions - UNITE, GMB, Prospect and the FDA would. If the Prison Officers' Association joined in Serwotka would be isolated.

If/when deals are done people will ask who blinked and whether the strikes achieved their goal.

The Treasury has given no more money since the strikes. However the offer made before - on 22nd November - was, I'm told, rather more generous than many realised - not least those who went out on strike.

Those who don't settle will still complain that their members are being expected to work longer, get less and pay more.

Those who do will point to detailed concessions - accrual rates, transition arrangements and the like.

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