There's a budget crisis at Helminthdale and the council is trying to cut costs. Actually, that's not strictly true: the council is trying to save money at all costs. Head count is always a substantial cost - the council is far and away the biggest employer in the borough - so the council is looking to get it trimmed down so that it can afford to fund the Regeneration Programme For Jobs.
We've had the bit where they cut everyone's pay; and the bit where taking the time back for involuntary unpaid out-of-hours working is treated as a benefit-in-kind; now we're at the bit where the council asks if anybody's interested in early retirement.
Bronwyn and I are gutted: we're of the same age and just slightly too young to qualify. A mutual friend in the council offices over in Catty has applied and almost by return of post he received a letter telling him that on no account is the council prepared to allow him early retirement as he is "a very-much valued employee whose skills we are not prepared to lose at this time. He's planning on getting it framed and put on the wall so that he can point to it next time he gets a bollocking for being bolshie.