While the two have always been fairly evenly pegged, with most consultants obviously expecting to pick up work from both sides of the fence, private sector jobs have always had a slight edge in the past.

This year there has been an 11% swing towards confidence in public sector work, with 6% more consultants expecting the sector to be a growth area.

Last year the figures were switched, with 5% more backing contracts from private business as having the biggest potential for growth.

Neil Kemble, client relationship director at Hyder, acknowledged that the current economic climate has obviously had some influence here, with a perception that the business world is battening down the hatches while publicly-funded bodies will continue to spend their budgets and would be a more reliable, secure source of income in the short term.

Gwen Ventris, chief operating officer for AEA Europe, said the public sector might feel a squeeze in the short term, but things looked more optimistic down the track.

“Both the public and the private sectors offer opportunities and challenges in the coming years,” she said.

“Cutbacks are widely expected in the UK public sector and there may be a hiatus in spending before and immediately after the general election.

“However, the Government has made a commitment to reducing emissions by 34% by 2020. An ambitious target like this will require investment in the expertise and technologies that can help Government deliver a low carbon economy.

“In the private sector, opportunities will be created not only by new legislation such as the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, the EUETS and the CCA, but by businesses who want to maximise the potential offered by a low carbon economy.”Marketing director for Enviros, Nigel Clark, went against the survey’s trend, saying that with an election imminent and politicians anxious to please the public by cutting costs, he expected the public sector to feel a pinch in coming months.

“We’ve always had a big public sector practice and the expectation is that post-election there is going to be a squeeze on public spend across the piste,” he said.

Even if funding has not been cut as yet, he argued, the public sector as a whole was already being a bit more cautious about how they’re going to spend their budgets.

“It’s too early to say whether that’s going to have a material impact on spend,” he said.

“But on the private sector we’re actually quite optimistic.”

Sam Bond

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