Latest Public Sector News


Bleak future ahead for public sector as employment continues to crash

Public sector employment in the UK is at its lowest level since the start of data collection in 1999, figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed.

The data, released today (16 September), showed that the public sector staff pool crashed by 16,000 from the first to the second quarter of the year – its lowest level on a headcount basis.

Employment in local government was the hardest hit, falling by 13,000 to 2.270 million, which is also the lowest level since 1999.

Central government employment dropped by 1,000 and now stands at 2.909 million.

Public corporations are also taking in 2,000 less staff compared to the second quarter of last year.

Despite this, private sector employment skyrocketed, taking on 58,000 since quarter one – and is now 472,000 higher than this same period last year. It has risen every quarter since the end of 2011 and is now at its highest recorded level.

This is in line with a Manpower employment survey reported by PSE earlier in September, which revealed public sector employers were predicting the need to cut posts rather than take on staff as a result of weakened nationwide confidence around the upcoming Spending Review.

The survey showed that the public sector employment outlook has slipped to -1% for the first time since the end of 2014, with confidence in the north east of England – where one-fifth of workers are publicly employed, the highest proportion in England – being hit the hardest.

Amanda White, operations manager at Manpower, said at the time: “Part of this drop in hiring intentions is being driven by the public sector, where confidence has slipped nationwide following the government’s renewed commitment to cuts. We are also seeing a marked divide between job prospects across the north and those in London – a clear sign that the government’s plans to rebalance the economy through the creation of a Northern Powerhouse have so far failed to ignite.”

ONS labour market figures also released today showed that nationwide unemployment rose by 10,000 as a whole since the February to April period, standing at 5.5%. However, the number of unemployed people is still 198,000 less than one year ago.

And comparing the May to July period to the same time a year earlier, total pay (including bonuses) and regular pay for employees in Britain rose by 2.9%.

John Philipott, professional economist from The Jobs Economist and former chief economic adviser at the CIPD, said public sector workers will be feeling “less than chipper”.

He highlighted that their average weekly pay is also rising at a rate almost three times slower than the average rate in the private sector, and calculated that the first half of the year saw a 22,000 fall in the number of public employees.

In contrast, Michael Martins, economic analyst at the Institute of Directors, said the figures are proof that businesses “continue to power the recovery”, with the proportion of people in work suggesting the economy is “close to full employment”.

“People will have to look hard to find a negative story in today’s figures, which provide yet more evidence that the UK economy is strong and stable enough to begin the gradual and incremental process of normalising interest rates after the US Federal Reserve,” he added.

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, took a lighter stand, saying the “mixed figures” confirmed the UK is recovering at a “satisfactory pace” – but the rise in unemployment indicates that this recovery is “still fragile and significant risks will persist”.

But the TUC union slammed the figures, with general secretary, Frances O’Grady, calling the “worrying” data a sign of unequal nationwide recovery.

She said: “It is welcome that private sector earnings continue to rise, but there is still a long way to go to make up lost ground and the public sector is even further behind. We need a stronger and fairer recovery that works for everyone – with more investment in skills, infrastructure and innovation to help better job creation and sustainable pay growth.”


Brianc   17/09/2015 at 13:52

The issue here is that public sector employment is going down, giving rise to the fact that people are not receiving full essential services when needed. Further to that, the third sector lags behind again on wage increases and job security, due to the competitive tendering process which has to be gone through at least every three years. Staff are expected to TUPE across to new employers willy nilly, and (though it is not in the deal) be forced to accept poorer terms and conditions at every turn. Or they leave for jobs in the public sector, leaving service users without the support on which they depend. By allowing private sector businesses to jump in where charities have led the field in the third sector, and take away excellent client care, to be replaced with minimum wage rookies, the services have been very seriously compromised.

Biggles   17/09/2015 at 17:12

As an income tax payer and council tax payer I do not see reducing public sector employment as a downside of the Government's policies.

Redkite   18/09/2015 at 09:29

Most of us are income tax payers and council tax payers! If public services are delivered correctly we actually save the tax payer money and sustain and manage quality of provision in the long term, by using appropriately trained, knowledgable and skilled staff like any business! Like any investment - you get better returns over the long term. It essentially depends on how much you value and understand how the public sector works as well. Remember with the current public sector cuts being as high as they are up to 2020. There is a real danger of being penny wise and pound foulish with council settlements- and will cost much more to run in the future than now if we are not careful. Lets hope none of us need adult and social care later in life -- because most of us will. The benefit of hindsight will then be too late unfortunately.

Cllr. Robert Wheal   21/09/2015 at 15:51

Public sector employment unnecessarily ballooned in number and high pay under the guiding hand of Gordon Brown. The number of public employees is still only down to figures of 1999. We must cut further in order to further reduce the public debt and the cost to the tax payer. The TUC and others should face up to reality; it is the private sector that creates real jobs paid for out of profitable and successful companies. It is also those companies that produce the wealth that pay for the public sector jobs.

John Cole   21/08/2017 at 17:18

Some huge savings could be made by slashing the number of 'council officers' and reducing councillors 'expenses'

Add your comment


public sector executive tv

more videos >

last word

Prevention: Investing for the future

Prevention: Investing for the future

Rob Whiteman, CEO at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance (CIPFA), discusses the benefits of long-term preventative investment. Rising demand, reducing resource – this has been the r more > more last word articles >

public sector focus

View all News


Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Bei... more >
How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

19/06/2019How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

Tom Chance, director at the National Community Land Trust Network, argues t... more >


Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

17/12/2018Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

It’s no secret that the public sector and its service providers need ... more >