Labour has created 600,000 public sector jobs since 1998

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The Independent Online

Two in every five jobs created since Labour came to power have been in the public sector, swelling the size of the civil service workforce by almost 600,000, according to analysis published yesterday.

Two in every five jobs created since Labour came to power have been in the public sector, swelling the size of the civil service workforce by almost 600,000, according to analysis published yesterday.

The figures were seized on by the Tories as proof that the huge increase in government spending since 1997 has only succeeded in expanding the number of bureaucrats. But independent experts said it was impossible to say how many of the new jobs were for front-line workers such as doctors, nurses, teachers and policemen, and how many were "back-office" staff.

According to the analysis by the Office for National Statistics, public sector employment rose by 583,000 between 1998 and the first quarter of 2004. In the preceding seven-year period, it fell by 815,000. The ONS added that in the latest 12-month period alone a further 146,000 civil service jobs were created compared with 119,000 in the private sector.

The surge in public sector employment means that one in five of the entire UK workforce is now employed by the state. Since Labour was elected the number of public sector jobs has risen by 11 per cent to 5.74 million.

Oliver Letwin, the shadow Chancellor, said: "The tragedy is that this huge expansion is not delivering any improvement in public services and we are not getting value for money. Nearly 300,000 of these jobs are bureaucrats not on the front line."

However, John Philpott, the chief economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said the improved data cast little light on how many of the jobs were front-line and how many were back-office. He said the latest figures would do little to quell the controversy over the types of public sector jobs being created, and also said that had the ONS data been extended to cover the whole of 2004, then the level of job creation would have been closer to 700,000.

The figures show that 80 per cent of the growth in jobs has come in the health service and education. Since Tony Blair came to power, the NHS workforce has grown by 22 per cent while the numbers employed in education have gone up by 18 per cent. But there has also been a 13 per cent rise in civil service numbers and a 9 per cent increase in staff employed in public administration.

The latest ONS analysis also revises upwards the number of public sector jobs created since 1991 by between 100,000 and 200,000 as a result of improved and more comprehensive coverage of public sector bodies and organisations. However, it says that the revision leaves the estimates of annual changes in recent years largely unchanged.

In a previous analysis published last July, the ONS put the number of public sector jobs created between 1998 and mid-2003 at 509,000.

In the last Budget Gordon Brown said 40,000 civil service jobs would be cut over the next four years and a further 20,000 moved out of London, freeing up £20bn to reinvest in front-line services. However, opposition politicians and business leaders questioned whether the savings would be that great.

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