'Cut 1 million public sector jobs to pay off Britain's debts'08 December 2009
One million public sector jobs must be cut to pay off Britain's huge debts, an independent study has calculated.
Reform, a cross-party think-tank, said that whoever wins the next general election should make cuts in the public sector equal to cutting one in six public sector jobs, including doctors, nurses, police and teachers.
Labour and the Conservatives are competing over pledges to make Whitehall more efficient.
On Monday, Gordon Brown admitted there is a "culture of excess" in public sector pay and pledged another £3 billion of "efficiency savings" over four years.
The Tories countered by announcing two senior Government advisers on Whitehall savings, Sir Peter Gershon and Bernard Gray, had "defected" and will now advise on Conservatives plans to cut the costs of central government by a third.
It also emerged that Mr Brown's promised £3 billion will be wiped out by the cost of a new travel and hospitality contract for ministers and civil servants,
Both main parties are focusing on Whitehall and promising to protect "frontline" services, but Reform says that balancing the budget will require cutting the jobs of workers in the NHS, the police and schools.
The Government will borrow more than £175 billion this year and the national debt is on course to reach £1.4 trillion in four years.
Reform suggested that rebalancing the budget will require a 15 per cent cut in the total public sector wage bill, saving around £27 billion a year.
That would be the equivalent of reducing total public sector employment by 1 million jobs.
Reform calculated that in the last ten years, public sector employment has grown by 16 percent, from 5.2 million to 6 million. Both the NHS and the police have had 30 per cent increase in staff numbers.
Both Labour and the Conservatives have pledged to protect the NHS from cuts and to increase its budget. Reform suggested that some job reductions among clinical staff will be necessary, and said that NHS managers are ready to make the cuts if politicians provide leadership.
The report said that because turnover rates are so high in the public sector, "relatively few" involuntary redundancies would be needed to reduce the overall headcount.
Andrew Haldenby, the director of Reform, said that "radical" action will be required to restore the public finances.
He said: "Politicians have to be more honest with the public about what needs to happen if they are to reduce the deficit. The public sector workforce has to shrink to become as productive as the private sector."