FIVE thousand public sector jobs in East Lancashire could be axed by Britain’s next government, union bosses fear.

The region’s workforce of town hall officers, health staff and even teachers could be slashed as political leaders attempt to tackle the country’s mammoth budget deficit.

East Lancashire GMB union representative Tom Fallows said he feared even frontline services could be hit by savage cuts.

Mike Damms, chief executive of the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, has also predicted that “substantial” reductions will be made to the number of people employed in the public sector.

Respected business group the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has estimated that 10 per cent of Britain’s public sector workforce could be axed in the next five years.

And in East Lancashire, which has around 50,000 public workers, that would amount to as many as 5,000 job losses.

Mr Fallows, who represents workers across the region, said he expected painful cuts to be made.

He said: “As a trade union we believe that if politicians axe jobs, those people will no longer be able to stimulate the economy as consumers and the knock-on effect is more people on benefits.

"It’s counter-productive.”

Currently, East Lancashire’s public sector staff account for around a quarter of the region’s workforce.

In many towns, including Blackburn and Burnley, councils and the NHS employ much of the workforce, meaning cuts would have a dramatic effect on the economy.

Experts have also expressed scepticism as to whether the region’s shrinking private sector could adequately provide employment opportunities as East Lancashire crawls out of recession.

Mr Damms said: “I would expect a significant reduction in the size of the public sector in the next few years.

“However, we have to look at where private sector jobs would be created.”

Political leaders in East Lancashire were cautious over future plans as their party bosses discuss power-sharing deals in Westminster.

Burnley’s new Liberal Democrat MP Gordon Birtwistle said: “It is far too soon to say and predictions like this are scaremongering.

Peter Britcliffe, Conservative leader of Hyndburn Council, said: “Everyone realises that we cannot continue with the levels of public spending we have had in recent years.”