A FORMER head of the Department of Finance and Personnel has said the Northern Ireland Civil Service is facing the most serious issues of recent times as a result of looming cuts.
John Hunter spoke ahead of a conference organised by the Chief Executives Forum (CEF), the umbrella organisation for senior public sector personnel, which takes place next Friday.
The one-time Permanent Secretary said the next four years, in which ministers must make £4bn of cuts, would be "difficult and demanding with no easy answers".
"What confronts us is a challenge of unprecedented proportion. Economic conditions are likely to get worse, but measures can be employed to mitigate the many problems that confront us all.
"In my time in the civil service, I cannot recall a period when we had to address issues of such gravity."
Mr Hunter said it was "inevitable" that programmes and plans would have to be reconsidered and that job losses would result from doing "as much as we can with a lot less". He added: "The goal has got to be to re-balance the economy. The over-reliance on the public sector is coming to an end and representative organisations such as the Chamber of Commerce are looking to the private sector to play a greater role."