15 February 2008
Almost half of public sector employers expect to make staff redundant over the next three months, a survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has revealed.
The institute's Labour Market Outlook report for winter 2008 shows that public sector redundancies are set to be far more widespread than job cuts in the private and voluntary sectors.
In the public sector, 48% of employers surveyed by the CIPD and consultancy KPMG said they were expecting to make redundancies this quarter – up sharply from 21% in the autumn 2007 survey, and substantially higher than the 38% figure for employers across the economy as a whole.
Public sector employers are also predicting a fall in the number of people they employ over the next year. Across the economy as a whole, the balance of employers expecting to increase their staff over those expecting to employ fewer workers was 19%. But the public sector recorded a 'significant negative balance' of minus 29%.
CIPD chief economist John Philpott said employers were looking to trim their workforces amid talk of an economic slowdown. In the public sector this was driven by 'being required to make further efficiency savings and cope with tighter budget settlements'.
A Unison spokeswoman said: 'This is a very disturbing trend. It is all the more disappointing as it comes just as we'd begun to rebuild the public sector.
'Public sector workers now face attacks on two fronts – job cuts and pay cuts. There will be no winners – morale will drop even further, and service quality will suffer.'
The survey came as the Liberal Democrats revealed that the government had spent more than £430m on civil service redundancy costs as part of the Gershon efficiency drive.
The figure includes £612,000 paid to John Oughton, former chief executive of the Office of Government Commerce, the Treasury agency charged with improving procurement efficiency.
LibDem Treasury spokesman Lord Matthew Oakeshott, who obtained the figures through parliamentary questions, said: 'The government has thrown half a billion pounds of taxpayers' cash at civil servants to pay them not to work. The benefits are vague and stretching into the future. No business that runs its redundancy programme like this would last ten minutes.'
But a Treasury spokesman said: 'Civil service workforce reductions are contributing to £20bn resource savings which we have been able to redirect to frontline services as part of the government's wider efficiency programme.'