There was a reduction in the public sector workforce of 132,000 in 2010, 2.1 per cent down on the previous year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The biggest reduction was in local government (66,000 or 2.3 per cent), followed by ‘central government’, which includes the NHS and the armed forces (45,000 or 1.6 per cent), the ONS’s ‘Public Sector Employment Bulletin’ said. This brought the total employed by the public sector to just under 6.2m. At the same time, employment in the private sector went up to around 23m, an increase of 77,000.

The ONS figures also showed that in the last quarter of 2010 around 45,000 public sector jobs went – 24,000 of them in local government, 12,000 in public corporations and 9,000 in central government.

Unison’s general secretary Dave Prentis said that the cuts in local government were “biting hard”, adding: “When jobs disappear, communities lose essential services such as home care, day care centres and libraries. And local businesses lose the spending power of council workers. It’s time for the government to think again about the downward direction they are taking the country in. There are alternatives to cutting jobs so fast and so deep.”