Public Sector Jobs (Cuts)

First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:00 pm on 2nd December 2004.

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Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party 12:00 pm, 2nd December 2004

To ask the First Minister how many public sector jobs will be cut under its efficient government strategy and how that will impact on services to the public. (S2F-1255)

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

Clearly, there would be many more under the SNP's proposal today than there were going to be yesterday. We know that efficient government will mean job changes—that is the inevitable consequence of reforming and modernising to streamline and become more efficient. However, we will not impose an arbitrary job-cut target, as many bodies will wish to retrain staff or redirect them to front-line service delivery. I say to Mr Adam that the objective of our efficiency savings is to ensure that we redirect resources from the back office to the front line to improve services to the public. If he has concerns about that, I suggest that he might want to raise them with Miss Sturgeon, following her earlier comments.

Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party

I am grateful to the First Minister and am glad that he is willing to answer questions today. Gordon Brown has identified the more than 80,000 jobs in the public sector south of the border that will go as part of the efficiency and effectiveness drive there. In the interests of openness and clarity, and as the ultimate employer of many public sector workers, will the First Minister tell us which posts are at risk beyond those that he has identified so far—the up to 80 administrative posts in the Crown Office and related areas?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

I have made it clear that we do not have an arbitrary job-cut target. We have a target to ensure that the resources that are available in Scotland's public services, in national and local government, are used for front-line services in education, health, transport and tackling crime. Those are vital services on which the people of Scotland depend and we want to ensure that resources are redirected to them.

Where people in national or local agencies can be retrained or redirected to work at the front line, so that there is direct benefit to members of the public, that will be welcome. There will be instances in which people's jobs have to go and it is right and proper that we review those circumstances. However, to impose an arbitrary job-cut target, as the SNP apparently wishes to do, would be wrong and unfair.

Photo of Carolyn Leckie Carolyn Leckie SSP

It is obvious to everyone but the Executive that having fewer people employed in public services means cuts in public services. I would like the First Minister to comment specifically on remarks that Tom McCabe made on the television the other night when justifying the First Minister's programme of increasing and swingeing cuts. He cited the existence of 32 different human resources and payroll departments as a problem. Just a few months ago, the Executive refused to intervene to avoid 32 different pay rates for nursery nurses and to do anything to secure one national pay scheme for them. Do Mr McCabe's remarks indicate that the Executive supports national pay for nursery nurses and other workers, or is this a breathtaking example of the Executive's double standards?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

I am probably in quite a good place today. On the one hand, we have the SNP and the Tories advocating massive cuts in public services, and on the other hand we have the Trotskyists at the back of the chamber saying that we are not employing enough administrators and bureaucrats. We are in exactly the right place. In Scotland today more people are working in the health service, our schools, our police services and the safety services in our community. More people are involved in the private and public sector investment that will be made in our transport and water services and in many other parts of our infrastructure. That trend will continue year on year. In all the areas that I have mentioned, there will be more investment and more staff members doing the things that are important. In achieving that, we will deliver more efficiencies behind the scenes to provide services even better. That is the right balance for Scotland and is exactly what the Parliament should be doing. We will continue to do it.