Public sector job cuts: Full pain ‘still to be felt’

John Philpott predicts another big fall in  public sector workforce. Picture: Contributed
John Philpott predicts another big fall in public sector workforce. Picture: Contributed
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THE full pain of public sector job cuts is “still to be felt” with up to 340,000 posts expected to be axed before the next general election, a prominent economist warns today.

Dr John Philpott, former Public Policy director and chief Economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said losses are expected to accelerate up to 2015, with almost as many local and central government jobs cut in the next two years as have already been lost since 2010. Unions last night called the projections “gloomy” and warned the findings highlighted that Scotland can expect to lose a further 34,600 jobs in the next two years.

Dr Philpott said the ongoing cuts could make future industrial action by people employed in the sector more likely.

“Almost half the pain of public sector jobs cuts expected in the current five-year parliament is still to be felt,” he said.

“This will almost certainly further exacerbate tension between the government and public sector trade unions at a time when talk of a general strike is in the air.”

Dr Philpott, now director of The Jobs Economist, a consultancy which analyses employment trends, said the predictions in his report, Jobs Audit: The fall in public sector employment, are based on projections from the Office for Budget Responsibility which outlines how public money will be spent.

The audit highlights how by the end of 2012, 5.72 million people were employed in the UK public sector. This total was 640,000 lower than the peak rates of public-sector employment in the third quarter of 2009.

In Scotland, the number employed in the public sector has dropped from 635,000 at the end of 2009 to 580,000 at the end of 2012. The report says the 55,000 drop (which equates to an 8.7 per cent fall in just three years) shows Scotland was suffering a bigger percentage loss than either Wales or Northern Ireland, which both employ slightly more in the sector.

Over the same period, Wales saw a 6.5 per cent drop and Northern Ireland a 6 per cent fall. England had the highest drop, 10.7 per cent.

Dr Philpott said: “It’s almost three years since the coalition government began its fiscal deficit reduction programme and one of the most noticeable impacts has been on public sector employment.

“It has already fallen by more than 600,000 and is projected to fall by 1.2 million between 2010 and 2018. This means the public sector workforce will have been cut by a fifth and the share of public sector employment in total employment in the UK will have fallen from 21.7 per cent to 15 per cent.”

Unions said they were “saddened but not shocked” by the latest figures and warned the audit would continue to make people employed in the sector wary of spending money, something which impacted on the economy as a whole.

Unison’s Scottish organiser Dave Watson said: “The bottom line is that many many people, both in public and private sectors, are worried about the long-term safety of their jobs. For those in public jobs this will make gloomy reading.

“If the figures in this new audit are correct then Scotland can expect to lose another 34,600 jobs or so in the next two years. It will mean we have not seen the worst of it and that people will continue to worry if they could lose their homes and feel they have to spend a little money as possible.”

Official figures
last month show-ed more than 10,000 jobs have disappeared from councils, schools and the civil service across Scotland in the past year.

STUC general secretary Grahame Smith said: “The consequences are severe not just for individuals, families and communities directly affected by these job losses but also for local economies and those who rely on public services.”

The audit also predicted the coalition government will, in five years, have cut as many general government jobs as the former Labour government created in the decade to the end of 2009.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said its policy of no compulsory redundancies was helping to maintain frontline public sector jobs. “Unemployment in Scotland fell 4,000 over the last quarter and the headline employment rate rose by 0.7 percentage points to 71.1 per cent.

“In the face of severe spending cuts from Westminster, the Scottish Government is prioritising investment in frontline public services.

Last week health secretary Alex Neil told the Unison health conference how accepting pay restraint until 2018 is the only alternative to introducing compulsory job losses.