Public sector job cuts could hit 578,000 by 2012

The number of public sector job cuts could reach as many as 578,000 by 2012 – nearly 60% more than the CIPD’s prediction of 350,000 by 2014-15 – and will inevitably hit the HR function.

Yesterday, the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) forecast that the public sector would have to make 350,000 job cuts by 2014-15 – just over 6% of the 5.8 million workforce – to cope with increasingly restricted public spending.

But Gillian Hibberd, president of the Public Sector People Manager’s Association and HR director at Buckinghamshire County Council, told Personnel Today that local governments were already looking to reduce headcount by 10% by 2012.

A 10% reduction in local government jobs would see the loss of 290,400 jobs. If applied to the wider public sector, it would mean 578,300 jobs were axed in total.

Hibberd said the loss of more than half-a-million public sector roles in just three years time “would not surprise me at all”.

The jobs cull in local government would inevitably hit HR, she added, but it could actually help the function become more strategic.

“[The cuts] are a chance to really influence the future of our organisations, and we shouldn’t be afraid of it.”

“There will be more development towards strategic functions and the development of strong specialisms like organisational and leadership design. Reward and performance management will also become more important,” she added.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union refused to be drawn on whether the cuts in central government would reach 10%.

But Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said he was concerned jobs could be cut arbitrarily.

He told Personnel Today: “With public finances as they are, we fear we will enter the next election and there will be grandstanding on who can cut the most jobs.”

The Conservatives admitted last week if they were to win the next general election they would look to cut public spending by more 10% across most central government departments.

However, Hibberd refuted the CIPD’s claim that the job cuts would lead to a wave of industrial action within the public sector.

She said: “I don’t believe that. We have got to have a sensible conversation with unions and employer representatives, where we sit down with them now and explain the situation we are facing.”

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