The number of IT contractors operating in the public sector has fallen to its lowest level since 2012 despite a rise in the number of professionals being sourced in the private sector, a new study by service provider SJD Accountancy reveals.

Just 17.3% of flexible workers with IT skill sets now work in the public sector, which is almost a 3% drop since August last year and more than 10% from the figure recorded back in August 2013. The survey drew responses from almost 3,000 IT contractor across the UK.

Demand remains strong for IT professionals on the whole due to end users in the private sector, who continue to compete for the services of skilled contractors. The fall in public sector demand is partly due to recent cuts to IT budgets, which have put many technology projects on hold.

Despite contractors experiencing a tough summer in the public sector, there are positive signs that demand will rise before the end of the 2016. A separate report has indicated that the tech market within the UK public sector will grow 50% faster than the private sector during the next 15 months.

SJD Accountancy chief executive officer Simon Curry said: “Public sector bodies cut back on their use of contractors before shedding staff. The advantage of contractors is that they’re a flexible resource, but their use tends to generate significantly more controversy in the public sector than elsewhere, particularly during times of austerity.”

He added: Contractors are typically the first to feel the pain in a recession but the flip-side is that they are usually the first to benefit from any rays of sunshine.”

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