UNIONS have pledged to picket a town hall as councillors meet to finalise their controversial budget proposals next week.

Staff and unions in Darlington said they were angry about plans to cut jobs and abolish premium rate overtime payments in an attempt to save money.

They said the proposed cuts, which also include the loss of 77 posts as part of £4.7m service efficiencies, were an election gimmick.

Darlington Borough Council’s Labour cabinet unveiled its draft budget for the 2010-11 financial year last month, ahead of a six-week consultation period.

The proposals included a freeze on council tax – paid for by service and job cuts.

Union members will hold a demonstration outside the town hall on Tuesday, at 4pm, ahead of the cabinet meeting.

They are protesting about the loss of 40 jobs, a pay freeze and the cutting of premium rate, overtime and essential car payments.

Alan Docherty, branch secretary of Unison, said: “I am bitterly disappointed that the council puts election gimmicks, ie the freezing of council tax, before its hardworking, low-paid staff.

“These cuts decided by highly-paid people will cause enormous financial difficulties for our members.”

He hoped that more than 100 staff would turn up to the demonstration to put pressure on the cabinet’s decision.

He said: “This stance says to the council that the staff are serious about this and we are not going away and want some flexibility on their side.”

A council spokeswoman said: “We are grateful to everyone who has responded to the consultation about the proposed budget, both residents and staff.

“All views have been considered and, in direct response to feedback, the proposal to secure savings in the current Early Years Inclusion Service has been removed and Darlington Storysacks and Toy Library has been allocated £60,000.”

Neither opposition group are expected to table counterproposals.