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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

IPPR North: 1 in 4 North East Public Sector Jobs Lost Since Austerity Began

  • New analysis shows that the North East has 72,000 fewer public sector workers than a decade ago - 24% fewer than before austerity- the largest drop of any region in England
  • Leading think-tank IPPR North will today join with citizens in the North East to demand an end to austerity and real devolution of power and resources, sparking a national conversation about economic justice

Stark figures released today show that the North East has seen the biggest percentage cut to public sector workers of all of England’s regions.

Of the 824,000 fewer public sector workers across England since 2009, 72,000 have been cut from the North East. The region now has 24% fewer public sector employees than it did prior to austerity ten years ago. Meanwhile, London saw the lowest cut of 9%.

Whilst local government employee numbers across England have fallen, at the same time the number of civil servants employed by Whitehall have increased suggesting that the UK is becoming even more centralised.

But despite the odds, the North East economy has shown resilience. Productivity growth in the region is amongst the highest in the UK averaging 2.2% per year- joint top with the West Midlands and exceeded only by Northern Ireland. IPPR North have called for an end to austerity and for real powers and resources to be devolved to places like the North in order to realise their potential.

The leading think-tank revealed this new analysis ahead of a key event to be held this evening in Newcastle about what economic justice means for the North East. It is the first in a series to be held across the UK, organised by the new Centre for Economic Justice at IPPR.

This evening’s event will be addressed by England’s newest Metro Mayor, Jamie Driscoll who will welcome citizens from across the North East to spark a national conversation about what economic justice means to them and how we can work together to build a fairer economy.

The event builds on the work of the high-profile Commission on Economic Justice, whose commissioners included Sara Bryson, Citizens UK, Tyne and Wear and the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Reverend and Rt Hon Justin Welby. The Commission reported in 2018 and argued that the UK economy is broken- setting out a ten-point plan for reform.

Sarah Longlands, Director of IPPR North said:

“We are delighted that the Centre for Economic Justice has chosen to join IPPR North in Newcastle to spark a nationwide conversation about how to deliver economic justice for all people across the UK.

“Despite the North East’s resilience, austerity has reaped untold damage on communities across the region.

“If we are serious about building a stronger northern economy, then we need to start by delivering greater economic justice to the people who live and work here.”

Chief Economist at IPPR and Head of the Centre for Economic Justice, Carys Roberts said:

“The economy isn’t working for people the North East, and it isn’t working for the vast majority of people across the UK either.

“We must demand a radical change in the way that our economy works, and who holds the power.

“As part of this, we need a new ‘economic constitution’ for the UK, devolving more powers to regions like the North. Only then will we begin to address the deep imbalances that affect people in the North East, because a fairer economy is a stronger economy”.



IPPR North is the leading think-tank for the north of England, developing bold ideas for a more inclusive economy and prosperous places and people. For more information, visit

The Centre for Economic Justice at IPPR in London is a flagship initiative to carry forward the work of the Commission on Economic Justice. The Commission was a two-year inquiry, established in the autumn of 2016 to examine the challenges facing the UK economy. The final report of the Commission can be found online here.

IPPR North’s new analysis of public sector employment in the North East is based on recent ONS employment statistics. The North East has seen the biggest percentage decrease in public sector workers and the North West has seen the biggest absolute decrease.

Total public sector workforce, 2019

Change in public sector employees, 2009-19

% change

North East




North West




Yorkshire and the Humber




East Midlands




West Midlands




East of England








South East




South West




The main reasons for these reductions in public sector workers are likely to be threefold:

  • The consequences of austerity cuts to local government, education, NHS and other public services in the region. Previous IPPR North analysis has shown that public spending in the North as a whole has fallen by £6.3 billion in real terms since austerity began – more than any other region.
  • Privatisation of public services, including the creation of academies, and the outsourcing of public sector jobs
  • The closure of central government offices in the region