PUBLIC sector job vacancies in the North-East have been hit hard by George Osborne’s "slash and burn approach" to public services, according to recruitment firm Venn Group.

Vacancy levels fell by 16 per cent between quarter one and quarter two this year, largely as a result of NHS budget restrictions.

Despite this, the report reveals there are pockets where hiring is buoyant, in particular within revenue and benefits, as local authorities use contractors to avoid potential declines in service levels.

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Venn Group’s director of operations in the region, Ross Gilder, said: “The results from our analysis reflect the budgetary restraints put on public sector leaders towards the end of the financial year and the impact of Government cuts which are now filtering through to the employment market. Despite this, on the revenue and benefits side, vacancies for contractors have continued to pick up as local authorities seek to plug gaps while filling permanent positions and maintain the service levels they offer.

“In the private sector we’ve seen pockets of industry showing sustained optimism, particularly in the legal arena where conveyancing locums are highly sought after. However, many businesses chose the initial upturn in the economy as a time to bolster headcount and, as a result, are now fully staffed. We believe a number of major organisations are showing caution and using this period as a testing ground for whether recovery is sustainable or not.

"Once they’ve decide that the improvements are here to stay, we predict we’ll see greatly heightened hiring levels towards the end of the year.”