In and for, part 94

The Guardian’s map of the public sector workforce (available here) is a beautiful thing, but its visuals imply that you can tell where the public sector job cuts will have the most effect. But because local government boundaries are so permeable, you can’t.

Looking around the map, one might assume that the coming public sector squeeze will hit the cities, but not the rural South East. However, the map shows the public sector workforce by place of employment not place of residence. That means that areas which have few public sector offices, but where large numbers of people commute across local authority boundaries to public sector jobs elsewhere will show a low public sector employment rate, and will seem to be less affected than they are. Conversely, areas where the offices are located will seem to be more affected.

Best example I can instantly spot is Three Rivers DC, in the south-western corner of Hertfordshire next to South Bucks. It comes up as a yellow, showing it has a relatively small number of public sector workers, but it actually means it has a low share of locally-situated employment in the public sector. Three Rivers, which is on the end of the Metropolitan Line and is classic commuter belt outer suburbia, will send a lot of public sector workers across its borders to Whitehall and to the big hospitals in Watford and Harrow. The fact that it only has a small district council office within its boundary doesn’t mean that mass redundancies in Whitehall won’t affect it – they will, because the people who live there will have less money to spend in all the private sector businesses.

Incidentally, I suspect that this is also the reason why the districts around county towns (Lewes, Exeter, Chichester, Truro, Chelmsford) look like they will be badly affected – the county’s entire staff complement is probably registered for the stats as working in County Hall, even though in reality they will be spread out around the county.

As ever, context is all.


Published by Anthony Zacharzewski

Anthony Zacharzewski was one of the founders of Demsoc in 2006. Before starting work for Demsoc in 2010, he was a Whitehall civil servant and a local government officer.