A PLANNED one day nationwide strike by 1.5 million council workers and civil servants was expected to be called off this afternoon.

Unions representing public sector workers were set to make a joint statement which will cancel the industrial action planned for Wednesday.

Many of Bolton Councils 12,500 workers, and staff at sister organisations such as Bolton at Home, had planned to join the 24 hour walk out over plans to change their pensions.

But a breakthrough in the dispute came this weekend when the Government offered a "fresh start" in dealing with the controversy, and promised unions that the Government would revoke changes to the retirement age due to come into effect on April 1.

It follows widespread protests against the Government's plans to raise the retirement age from 60 to 65 and change early retirement rules as part of a wider review of all public sector pension schemes aimed at tackling rising pension costs.

Martin Challender, secretary of the Bolton Metro branch of Unison, said: "This is a massive retreat by the Government in the face of the anger of public sector workers and the threat of industrial action which proves public sector workers have the power to make the Government sit up and take notice."

The cancellation of the strike will save the Government the embarrassment of an outbreak of industrial action just weeks before the General Election.

Around 250 union members attended a rally in Bolton town square calling for industrial action last month.

Deputy prime minister John Prescott made the new offer at talks in London over the weekend. It was backed up by a letter from work and Pensions Secretary Alan Johnson, who acknowledged there had been "misunderstandings and suspicions" of the planned reforms.

In a statement, Mr Prescott said: "Rather than rush and risk getting the policy wrong we want to ensure we get it right and carry the people affected with us."