Belfast Telegraph

20,000 jobs may be lost in Northern Ireland public sector

By Symon Ross

Up to 20,000 jobs in Northern Ireland’s public sector could be at risk of being axed under Chancellor George Osborne’s planned austerity measures, a senior economist has warned.

Official figures leaked from the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) yesterday showed that UK-wide public sector jobs losses are expected to total more than 600,000 by 2016 as massive spending cuts are imposed in a bid to cut the country’s record deficit.

Ulster Bank economist Richard Ramsey said this could mean 15,000 to 20,000 jobs lost from a total of 220,000 in Northern Ireland’s public sector.

He believes that the severity of spending cuts announced in Mr Osborne’s emergency budget last week will all but wipe out the growth in public expenditure under Labour.

“If you look at the expected cuts coming down the line the huge unsustainable increase in public expenditure under the last administration will be largely wiped out,” he said.

“So to get a broad idea of the sustainable level of public expenditure that is affordable we should look at public sector employee numbers in the early part of the decade. It is not unreasonable to see that on this basis 15,000 to 20,000 public sector jobs are vulnerable.”

Mr Ramsey said that fewer jobs will mean an increasing number of people find they are living above their means.

“Furthermore, it is anticipated that the imposition of a public sector pension levy, which will potentially be unveiled this autumn, will further reduce the disposable incomes of Northern Ireland’s 220,000 public sector workers. In turn, all of these measures will reduce consumer spending on goods and services in Northern Ireland and will act as a major drag on future economic growth,” he said.

Since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 almost 25,000 jobs have been created in the province’s public sector.

Mr Ramsey urged the Executive to look at what proportion of this surge was in priority frontline services and what was in non-frontline administrative functions that could be cut back.

“It is inevitable that there will be public sector job losses,” he said.

Belfast Telegraph