Brown says one in five civil servants will lose jobs

Click to follow

One in five of Britain's civil servants were threatened with losing their jobs after Gordon Brown ordered a cut of 104,000 staff in Whitehall and the devolved administrations.

One in five of Britain's civil servants were threatened with losing their jobs after Gordon Brown ordered a cut of 104,000 staff in Whitehall and the devolved administrations.

A trade union leader representing staff in benefits offices threatened industrial unrest over the "carnage" caused by the job cuts to be implemented by 2008. They were recommended in a report by Sir Peter Gershon, the head of the Government's efficiency review. Sir Peter said cutting 84,000 posts in England with a further 20,000 in Scotland and Wales would save the taxpayer more than £20bn, and 60 per cent of the cash could be ploughed back into front-line services or savings.

The Chancellor also announced a crackdown on sickness absence. He wants to end a system of "self-certification" by civil servants, who Mr Brown, in a slip of the tongue, branded "self-satisfied".

In addition, the Chancellor is speeding up the relocation of 20,000 civil service jobs outside London and the South-east by 2010, as recommended in March by the Lyons review.

Mark Serwotka, leader of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), reacted angrily, warning that the cuts would make it impossible for the Chancellor to deliver on his promises for providing tax credits and winter fuel payments, tackling immigration and closing tax loopholes. He said he could not rule out industrial action.

Jonathan Baume, the general secretary of the senior civil servants' union, the First Division Association, said: "This is far worse than we expected. It is on such a scale that it is difficult to see how compulsory redundancies will be avoided.

"Our members are not people who normally resort to industrial action. At the moment that is unlikely but it will cause tremendous concern."

Andrew Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, a close friend of the Chancellor, is taking the biggest single cut, with a total reduction in his department's civil servants of 40,000. These are to be achieved largely through the introduction of electronic payments of benefits directly into claimants' bank accounts, which now account for 60 per cent of its transactions.

There will be 15,000 jobs cut from the civil service force at the Ministry of Defence. The Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, will also have to relocate 3,900 posts out of London and the South-east by 2010. There are nearly 100,000 civilians in the MoD ­ one for almost every soldier.

The Home Secretary, David Blunkett, will lose 2,700 staff and have 2,200 relocated outside London. The Gershon report said it was possible to achieve the cuts because of the reduction in asylum claims.

Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, will cut his civil service posts by 1,960, with a further 500 cut from Ofsted. Sir Peter said it would help to realise total annual efficiency gains of at least £4.3bn by 2007-08. Some 800 education posts will be relocated outside London.

The Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, will be expected to cut 400 posts from his department, including 250 from his London headquarters. Local authorities may also have to shed jobs they have created with increases in their budgets, but the exact numbers to be cut in town halls were not known.

Modernisation will also see 5,000 staff cut from the NHS bodies, such as the prescription pricing authority.

'Nearly impossible to find equivalent work'


Manager, Child Support Agency, Basingstoke

Sylvia Hall became a manager for the Child Support Agency because of the job security but her office is earmarked for closure and she will have no chance of relocation.

Her £15,000-a-year job will end in the next 12 months. Closing her office will affect staff and those who use the CSA to assess maintenance payments. The office serves the south-west region, from Basingstoke to Cornwall. The delay on maintenance assessments currently stands at three to four months, but after the closure of the CSA in this region, will increase to 12-18-month waits.

Sylvia (not her real name), aged 47, fears for her future. "I have no idea where to go from here," she said. "A lot of government departments are refusing to process transfer requests, because they know they face cuts of their own."

The situation is worse for many of her colleagues, who are dependent on the flexible hours offered by public service jobs. "I have colleagues with young families, some of whom work term-time only. It will be nearly impossible for them to find equivalent work," she said.

As the employees at the CSA listened to the announcement from Gordon Brown in dismay, Sylvia said: "The ironic thing is that civil servants accept low wages ­ sometimes very low ­ because they want job security and a good pension. The chances are that we will end up with neither."

'I want to keep my job but I won't relocate'


Personal assistant, 27,
Office for National Statistics

"It's like Chinese whispers at work at the moment," Stella Paige said.

"We know they're going to make cuts and that people are going to have
to relocate, but it's all up
in the air."

Stella (not her real name) began working at the ONS 12 years ago, starting as a casual before graduating through different departments. "I've been happy in my work," she said. "The people are fun and the flexible time system is perfect for people with kids." But she will not
move when her job does, she said. Stella has two young children who are settled in a school and nursery near their home
in south-east London. "I like my job and I want to carry on working in it
but I won't relocate," she said. "This is my life,
where I am based.

"They want to move us
to Newport or Bristol. My family is here, my friends are here. I'd like to know how they can justify it because I can't see it. They're relocating people
to make it cheaper but they're still going to have to have an office in London."

The threat of relocation
is not as great for Stella as it is for others at higher grades, but all those in her office are threatened with redundancy.

"For a few months now there's been a feeling that nothing is certain. We know something shifty is going on. People are having conversations saying, 'Whatever will be, will be'."