Spending Review: South East firms wait on cuts decision

Canterbury town centre A total of 41% of workers in Canterbury are employed by the public sector

"Let's get on with it." The words of one businessman I spoke to referring to the public spending cuts expected in the chancellor's Comprehensive Spending review on 20 October.

Well the wait is nearly over and businesses in the South East are bracing themselves for what George Osborne will announce.

That anxiety is reflected in the latest figures released by Seeda - the South East England Regional Development Agency - itself a victim of the cuts and due to close in 2012.

Its September review stated that the "bounce in business activity" seen in the South East, earlier in the year had "not been sustained".

Seeda said the region saw a fall in the number of people in jobs during the period, whereas almost every other area in the UK saw a rise, and business confidence locally had been "significantly weakened".

'Vulnerable to cuts'

In my opinion it highlights the fact that South East firms are anxiously watching and waiting for what the chancellor will have to say and the number crunching that will follow.

Until the actual figures are processed and we get the detail we will not know how this spending review will affect our lives, our jobs, our schools, our hospitals and our council services.

But cuts in public spending will mean cuts in public sector employment and much of the South East is vulnerable to those cuts.

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There are a lot of ifs, don't knows and possibles and that is why we are all watching and waiting ”

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In the wider South East region one in four people are employed in public administration, education and the health sector.

Hastings in Sussex and Canterbury in Kent are in the UK's top 10 of towns with the highest percentage of workers employed in the public sector, with 43% and 41% respectively.

Surrey comes out quite well but a major urban conurbation like Guildford could still suffer.

Some forecasts predict 74,000 public sector jobs will be lost in the region between now and the end of the 2015/16 financial year.

'Councils fare well'

That works out at about 2% of the workforce and no-one knows how many private sector positions will go as a result of the cuts or how many people commuting to London to work might also lose their jobs.

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A special BBC News season examining the approaching cuts to public sector spending

But there is some good news.

A recent BBC-commissioned study, carried out by Experian, ranked the resilience of council areas to shocks such as public sector cuts and many of our councils fared very well.

Both businesses and local authorities have been working hard to mitigate the effects of any spending cuts and the ones I have spoken to said they felt able to withstand much of what is expected.

But there are a lot of ifs, don't knows and possibles and that is why we are all watching and waiting.

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