WEST DORSET has a higher percentage of people working in the public sector than anywhere else in the South West, according to the Office for National Statistics.
18,100 people are employed by bodies such as Dorset County Council, West Dorset District Council, Dorset Police and the NHS.
That’s 40 per cent of the district’s working population – which is not just the highest percentage in the South West, it’s one of the very highest rates nationally.
The number of public sector workers in West Dorset jumped from 15,100 (36% of the total number of people employed) to 18,100 (40%) between 2005 and 2008.
The sources for these figures are the ONS Annual Business Inquiry employee analysis (expressed as UK LA employment by sector) and the Dorset Data Book 2008.
With the General Election now just days away, these figures seem to me to pose one overwhelming question.
What on earth is going to happen to West Dorset’s economy after the election?
Labour, the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats – whatever party, or combination of parties, ends up in Government – they are all going to have make enormous cutbacks.
Do people in West Dorset have any idea what they could be in for?
Surely, if the district has a disproportionately high number of public sector employees, cutbacks may hit unusually hard?
David Cameron has been talking about the undue dependence of places like the North East and Northern Ireland on the public sector.
But what about here?
Or am I missing something? Is there some reason why West Dorset is going to escape being too badly affected?
Will – actually – Dorset County Council, West Dorst District Council, and Weymouth & Portland Borough Council all still be able to exist as separate authorities?
Will West Dorset District Council persuade people that it is sensible to spend £10.7 million on a new HQ?
Will the vast majority of people keep their jobs?
These are big political questions, and yet writers like The Red Bladder, on this site, report the West Dorset election campaign barely rousing people even to apathy.
Even though the stakes here are unusually high, because of West Dorset’s large public sector.
All parties should tell us what they really intend to do
The Institute for Fiscal Studies says the Conservatives will need to slash the budgets of unprotected Whitehall departments (such as health, and overseas aid) by £63.7bn by 2014-15, in inflation-adjusted terms. So far only 17.7% of the necessary cuts have been spelled out.
Labour has specified measures totalling 13.3% of what’s required to axe spending by £50.8bn, the Liberal Democrats 25.9% of the £46.5bn their plans imply. (The totals vary because the parties all have different plans to raise taxes as well).
One of the reasons that Real West Dorset was set up was to argue that this part of the world is actually at the forefront of various political and social developments.
When the cuts begin, we’ll find out how true that is.