BLACKBURN with Darwen Tory group leader Mike Lee has called on town hall staff to give up their annual service pay rises – even though his wife Jane would lose out.

He believes workers doing without the increments they are entitled to could save £2 million over two years to help bridge the council cash gap.

Coun Lee spoke out after borough staff agreed to continue an unpaid leave agreement where they take off four extra days a year.

This will save a further £890,000 towards the missing £3 million of the £30 million savings over two years that finance chiefs have been ordered to find by the government.

It comes on top of 500 jobs losses from the council’s 2,800 staff, the closure of old people’s homes and children’s centre and shorter hours and higher fees for leisure facilities.

So far the authority has found savings of £27 million. Coun Lee believes giving up the annual service increments could make another £2 million dent in the remaining £3 million to be found.

His wife Jane is a senior council employee on the middle of her scale and entitled to a small annual increase despite a freeze on main pay rates already in force for three years.

Coun Lee said: “I welcome the extension of the unpaid leave agreement for another two years. Now I hope the council and unions will agree to give up increments for two years, saving an annual £1 million. That would help close the cash gap and potentially save jobs and services.

“It would affect my wife Jane but she and her colleagues would happily give up their small annual increases to save other people’s livelihoods.”

Borough resources chief Andy Kay said: “The continuing co-operation of the trade unions is helping us mitigate the impact of these unprecedented Government cuts.

“I don’t think asking council staff to give up this entitlement to a small annual pay increment is fair in view of everything else they are doing in terms of unpaid leave and accepting a continuing pay freeze.

“Coun Lee could always go and ask the unions himself.”