16 July 2004
The newly elected senior executive of the Public and Commercial Services union is to meet next week to plan what it promises will be a 'hard-hitting and long-term campaign' to challenge the chancellor's intention to cut 104,000 civil service jobs.
Job cuts are predicted to deliver savings of around £5bn – almost a quarter of the £21.5bn efficiency savings identified by Sir Peter Gershon – but unions are predicting that they will hugely compromise the civil service's ability to deliver.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: 'Job cuts on this scale spell carnage for public services.
'How are the government going to deliver their promises on tax credits, winter fuel payments, immigration and closing tax loopholes in the face of such devastating cuts?'
He said that responding to the proposed job losses was the biggest challenge to face the union, adding that industrial action could not be ruled out.
But the Treasury remained intransigent. Chancellor Gordon Brown warned this week that the staff cull would go ahead. He said that, given the ongoing expansion of frontline roles, unions would be better engaged helping their members find alternative employment.
Although efforts will be made to ensure jobs go through voluntary redundancy and early retirement, senior Whitehall figures have conceded that redundancies could not be ruled out.
Jonathan Baume, general secretary of the senior managers' union, the First Division Association, said that although his union had backed the spirit of the Gershon review, job cuts on this scale would have very serious consequences.
'The next step for us is to try and find out what it all means,' he told Public Finance. 'Very few departments have got very much detail at the moment. We need to make sense of what is being said.'
Of the 104,000 posts marked for the axe, 20,000 will come from local and regional government and 84,000 from the central civil service. Of these, 13,500 are to be redesignated as frontline roles, resulting in a net cut of 70,600.
The Department for Work and Pensions is hardest hit, losing 40,000 staff. Some 15,000 posts are to go from the Ministry of Defence and 17,000 from the newly merged Inland Revenue and Customs & Excise.