The lowest-paid workers at cash-strapped Lancashire County Council look set to bear the brunt of a new three-part savings plan aimed at slashing £12m off its £319m wages bill.
The council is looking to freeze the hourly wage paid to its lowest-paid 5,820 workers, including cleaners, school dinner ladies, lollipop men and woman and carers.
Today it will consider gradually replacing its more generous pay rates with the lower National Living Wage (NLW), the legal minimum it can pay over-25s.
If such a change - which would save £1m by 2021 - is approved it will make Lancashire County Council the first council in England to scrap a commitment to paying what’s called a Foundation Living Wage (FLW).
The council currently pays the FLW of £8.45 an hour. Under the new proposals that pay would be frozen until the National Minimum Wage (NMW), currently £7.50 an hour for over 25s, overtakes it and replaces it.
The more generous Foundation Wage was introduced at Lancashire County Council in 2014 by the previous Labour administration.
Part-time workers, many of whom are women, would be particularly hard hit by the policy change.
Nearly a third of the workforce affected are over 50 and many are part-time workers.
The leader of the Labour opposition group at Lancashire County Council Coun Azhar Ali criticised the proposals and asked: “Are we going to give our low paid staff their wage slip with the number for the local Food Bank? That’s the way we are heading.
“I will be asking for this to be discussed at the full council.”
The cabinet will also consider reviewing all staff terms and conditions in a bid to save £5m by 2020. This could include changes to sick pay and the offer of extra unpaid holidays.
A report to cabinet acknowledges if no collective agreement on new terms is reached, workers could be sacked and then offered new – less favourable – contracts.
The cabinet will look to save a further £6m by 2018/19 with a recruitment freeze - it’s suggested two per cent of staff vacancies will not be filled.
The council says it is considering the options because it faces a shortfall of £161m by 2022 amid “unprecedented financial pressure”.
The council has been on a cutting crusade since public austerity cuts hit in 2010. There have been thousand of redundancies and the workforce now stands at 12,319.