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Wednesday, May 18, 2005
CBI attack public sector 'non-jobs'

John Sunderland, president of the CBI and executive chairman of Cadbury Schweppes, last night criticised the government for spending taxpayers' money on non-jobs such as "gender and diversity observers" rather than more doctors, nurses and police. Mr Sunderland's intervention in the government waste debate is extremely welcome because it will keep the pressure on all political parties to root-out wasteful spending.

The speech also highlights once again the need for political parties to be specific in the cuts they propose to the public sector. The Government is hiding behind the vagueness of the Gershon Review and the Conservative Party is hampered by their refusal to outline in detail which public sector workers would lose their jobs where the James Review to be implemented.

This has important electoral ramifications for the Conservative Party, an issue which was highlighted this week by David Smith in the Sunday Times. In regions outside London and the South East - areas where the Conservatives have to win seats to form a Government - public sector spending now accounts for more than half of regional GDP and well over fifty percent of households rely on the public sector for their main source of income.

Talk of "axing non-jobs" understandably makes everyone in the public sector afraid that they will lose their job. The Conservative Party's commitment to maintaining front-line services will only resonate if they are more specific about precisely which jobs will go under a new administration. Until the full details of the James Review are published, this confusion and electoral handicap will remain.