No future for 1.1 million civil servants in Osborne's budget

Another winter of discontent loomed as public sector unions reacted with anger and dismay to the Chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement. With budgets slashed by 3% over the next two years, widespread job losses are inevitable. Estimates suggest that 1.1 million public sector jobs will be lost over the next six years.

After substantial public sector cuts in the last two years, further budget reductions will be felt keenly. Dave Penman, the general secretary of the FDA union representing civil servants, described the plans as "devastating". "After already the most savage cuts in living memory, those that remain in departments will be stretched beyond the limit," Penman said.

Paul Noon of the civil service union Prospect echoed this analysis. "On top of tens of thousands of job losses, they have endured pay freezes, increased pension contributions, and a fresh bid to worsen their terms and conditions," Noon told The Guardian. "Yet again they will face a 1% pay cap, even though their pension contributions are increasing by more than that."

The autumn statement was an awkward exercise in balancing the books after the government’s optimistic predictions of growth in the economy proved to be way off target. Osborne had to admit that growth would be much slower and borrowing correspondingly higher than he had predicted.

The independent Office for Budget Responsibility said that the British economy will shrink 0.1% in 2012, suggesting that fears of a triple dip recession are not too far wide of the mark. With no light at the end of a grim tunnel until 2017 at the earliest according to Osborne, the jobless could be facing the worst unemployment situation since the Thatcher era.

The government is pinning its faith in the private sector to fill the gap left by public sector cutbacks. The OBR report suggested that the private sector could create an extra 2.4 million jobs and that unemployment would peak in 2015 before gradually coming down.

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