The South West has been hit harder than any other region in England by public sector job losses which last year outnumbered those created in the private sector by more than six to one, new figures show.
Some 6,000 new private sector jobs were created between July and September, while 37,000 public sector workers lost their jobs, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The drop of seven per cent highlights the region’s reliance on state-funded jobs and has been described as “appalling” by unions. They say the Government should rethink its flagship policy to reduce the deficit by replacing a diminished public sector with newly created positions in business. The largest public sector union, Unison, said the coalition’s economic strategy was proving to be “a gamble” that was “not paying off”.
Regional spokesman Helen Willis said: “Every single job lost is a personal tragedy, and a direct hit on the local economy. No wonder the private sector cannot come to the rescue – there is no demand to drive growth and fuel our recovery.”
The ONS said those employed in the public sector in the region fell from 532,000 to 495,000 in the third quarter of 2011. The shrinkage sees one-in-14 workers made redundant, which is two-thirds higher than the average for England where one in every 22 face the dole queue. And with an average public sector salary of around £28,000, the reduction could potentially wipe close to £1 billion from the region’s spending power.
Nigel Costley, regional secretary of the South West branch of the TUC, said workers were disappearing from local government, the police, the armed forces and the NHS in their droves.
“Ministers must see that their economic policies are doing huge harm, and with more spending cuts coming down the track and the recovery still weak, thousands more public servants will soon be swelling the ranks of the unemployed,” he added.
The latest analysis also reveals that the situation is far worse in local government than across public services as a whole, with 26,000 council workers laid off during the quarter. This represents a drop of 11.3 per cent compared with the average figure in England of 7.3 per cent.
And to complete the misery, the region’s private sector grew more slowly than the average at just 0.3 per cent – a third of the national rise of 1.1 per cent. The figures come as the Treasury considers how to implement plans to declare the South West a “low-pay zone” for public sector workers, a move which could slash their average salary by an average £7,000 a year in some areas and cost the local economy £1.4bn.
Tim Jones, chairman of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, said the figures were “no surprise” and pointed to evidence that the private sector was being held back by banks, which remained reluctant to lend.
“You cannot just wave a magic wand and expect there will be a massive take-up of public sector jobs,” he added.