A bus and taxi pass Big Ben on Westminster Bridge in London
A bus and taxi pass Big Ben on Westminster Bridge in London Reuters

In a measure that may harbinger doom for thousands of British public sector workers, the UK Department for Education plans to cut 1,000 jobs – a quarter of its workforce – within two years, to satisfy the government's demands for spending cuts.

Education Secretary Michael Gove's drastic decisions will likely force other cabinet ministers to make similar spending cuts in their departments.

The department also seeks to slash its administrative budget by half (or £290 million) by 2015-2016, up from a previous projection of a 42 percent reduction by 2014-2015. (The government has called for all departments to reduce costs by at least one-third.)

The Education department will also close six regional offices.

"These proposals would generate savings of around £15 million per annum," the department said in a statement.

The shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg criticized the extensive streamlining.

"While Labour support efficiency savings in the civil service, this document says certain work that isn't a ministerial priority will stop, raising the prospect that programmes and services will be axed,” he stated.

"Michael Gove needs to explain to parents how this will affect them."

Not surprisingly, public sector worker unions are gravely concerned.

"Whilst the FDA welcomes aspects of the ... review aimed at making the department's decision-making processes more efficient and avoiding unnecessary duplication in its work, we remain deeply concerned about the proposal to further cut administration budgets,” said Jawad Raza, national officer of the FDA union.

He added: "With cuts of this magnitude, the department will need to identify which areas of work will be abandoned to satisfy the resources required to deliver ministerial priorities."

Another union official from the Public and Commercial Services Union expressed himself more forcefully.

"Gove appears to want to run the education department as some kind of nightmarish, right-wing experiment, playing politics with people's livelihoods and putting at risk the very important services these civil servants provide to teachers and the public," a spokesman stated.

The Guardian newspaper reported that job cuts will disproportionately hurt blacks, Asians, the elderly and the disabled.

Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the PCS union, told the paper: "While ... Michael Gove, is busy playing politics with people's lives and the education of our children, workers could face the sack as a direct result of a discriminatory performance management system. We believe this system should be scrapped immediately.”