Union fury as Brown culls jobs to fund services

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Gordon Brown today announced a massive cull of civil service jobs in a drive to release funds for frontline public services.

Gordon Brown today announced a massive cull of civil service jobs in a drive to release funds for frontline public services.

Setting out his spending plans for the next three years, the Chancellor said that 84,150 civil service jobs would go with a further 20,000 officials in the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales and the Northern Ireland Office also facing the axe.

The bigger-than-expected cuts brought an immediate warning of industrial action from the civil service unions who described the scale of the job losses as "devastating".

Mr Brown said that plans to move civil servants out of Whitehall would be speeded up and promised a new clampdown on absenteeism as he announced extra cash for defence, security and childcare.

Defence spending will rise from £29.7 billion to £33.4 billion by 2008 - a real terms increase of 1.4 per cent while spending on homeland security is set to double from £1 billion to £2.1 billion over the period of the review.

"Taken together, these rises provide for a faster rate of real terms growth in this spending round than the last and ensures the longest sustained real terms increase in defence spending for 20 years," he said.

Mr Brown also revealed that the Government would provide the funds to create an additional 120,000 childcare places as well as beginning pilot tests on extending nursery education to two-year-olds.

An addition a further £100 million would be invested in the building of children's centres so that 2,500 can be opened across the country by 2008.

Commenting on his defence spending proposals, the Chancellor told MPs: "Taken together, these rises provide for a faster rate of real terms growth in this spending round than the last and ensures the longest sustained real terms increase in defence spending for 20 years."

On security, the Chancellor said: "Before September 11th, spending on security at home was £950 million a year.

"Having agreed a set of reforms that modernise our border security, our counter terrorism capabilities, our radio communication systems, our arrangements in respect of nuclear and chemical decontamination, and added 1,000 staff to our intelligence services, overall security spending will rise from £950 million in 2001 and £1.5 billion this year to reach, by 2007-08, £2.1 billion - a 10 per cent annual average real terms rise."

On his plans to cull thousands of jobs from Whitehall, Mr Brown said: "I want to put on record my appreciation of the work of our civil service and their commitment to the ethic of public service.

"But it is precisely because the public sector has invested £6 billions in new technology, modernising our ability to provide back office and transactional services, that I can announce, with the detailed plans Departments are publishing for the years to 2008, a gross reduction in civil service posts of 84,150 - to release resources from administration to invest in the front line."

But while the Chancellor was still on his feet, the Public and Commercial Services Union warned that the job cuts could spark industrial action

The PCS said cutting jobs and plans outlined by the Chancellor to clamp down on sickness absence was a "double whammy" for hard working civil servants.

General secretary Mark Serwotka said: "When this Government was elected they imposed the windfall tax to pay for initiatives like the New Deal, now they are using their own workforce to pay for their policies."

Mr Brown concluded his statement by insisting the extra investments he was announcing were "only possible because I have rejected the proposals of those who would cut spending on important services".

But responding to the statement, Shadow Chancellor Oliver Letwin immediately labelled it a "manifesto for fat government and fake savings".

Mr Letwin said it would mean more bureaucracy, more targets, more initiatives, mores taskforces, more regulation, more borrowing and more taxes.

And he taunted the Chancellor that he was the only person in Britain who believed that "the way to waste less is to spend more."

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