A LONG-serving councillor has called for his colleagues to take a ten per cent pay cut as some authority staff face salary cuts of up to £2,000-a-year.

Conservative councillor Bill Stenson made his comments to a full meeting of Darlington Borough Council after it emerged up to 30 staff in the council’s StreetScene department are facing wage decreases after their roles were re-graded.

Council leader Bill Dixon said the wage cuts for manual staff were ‘regrettable’ but were necessary under equal pay legislation to ensure all staff were paid the same for doing the same jobs.

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He pointed out hundreds of the lowest paid staff at the authority will receive a pay rise to increase it from the minimum wage in the coming weeks.

Unison, the union representing StreetScene staff, said its members were angry at the prospect of wage cuts and were suffering from low morale.

Coun Stenson, who was first elected in 1965, argued that if councillors took a ten per cent cut it would save £60,000 a year.

He said: “The wage increase for our lowest paid staff is very welcome and I’m not opposed to that.

“But that increase in costs is going to be offset by a cut in the wages of our manual staff.

“The expected increase in costs to 287 of our lowest paid employees is put at between £48,000 and £70,000. That increase could easily be covered by a reduction in councillors pay.”

Coun Dixon said councillors allowances are set by an independent panel, and have been frozen for several years.

On the staff wage cuts he said: “We made changes to StreetScene last year – those who were on a higher pay grade because they multi-tasked are now doing single task jobs.

“They had to be re-graded - they have to be equal to everyone else doing single task jobs, otherwise those on lower pay could sue us.

“It is regrettable, but we set a pay structure and we have to follow it.”

Union representatives and StreetScene staff will meet with council management about the proposed wage cuts this week.

Joe White, Unison branch secretary, said: “The strength of feeling is running very high amongst our members who are quite rightly angry over the prospect of pay cuts and changes to working practices.

“Morale is at an all-time low and they are feeling extremely let down by this Labour-controlled council."