AROUND 500 jobs are to be axed by Blackburn with Darwen Council, slashing its workforce by a fifth over four years.

Borough finance boss, Cllr Andy Kay, announced the blow as councillors voted for a 3.99 per cent increase in council tax pushing the bill for every home in the borough through the £1,000 barrier.

In the last five years the council has seen 755 jobs axed and by 2020 the town hall workforce will be just 60 per cent of what it was in 2010.

Town hall union UNISON branded the job losses as ‘terrible news for the people of Blackburn with Darwen’.

Borough Tory group leader, Cllr Mike Lee, welcomed the news of the spending cuts but said the number of councillors should be also slashed by a third to further reduce costs.

The proposed town hall job losses will come from all services and at all levels as part of a comprehensive workforce review. Council bosses said they aim to achieve as many as possible through voluntary redundancy and early retirement.

The council tax rise was agreed at a special Finance Council which set a budget based on cutting the authority’s spending by £12.5million from £145million in 2015/2016 to £231.5million for 2016/2017 and a total £48million by March 2020.

Blaming government grant cuts targeted unfairly on Northern local authorities, Cllr Kay warned of similar council tax rises of more than £36 annually for the next four years.

He told the meeting: “This inevitably means that there will be less staff as the months and years go by.”

Cllr Kay said afterwards: “We would expect to lose around 200 staff in the next 18 months and over the next four years the figure will rise to 500.

“I am almost certain there will have to be compulsory redundancies.”

The 21.6 per cent reduction will see current town hall staff numbers cut from 2,312 to 1,812 by 2020.

In 2010 the council employed 3.052 meaning there will have been a 40 per cent cut in town hall staff over 10 years by 2020.

Cllr Kay revealed the council had axed a whole layer of senior management staff to save money.

With the recent splitting of children’s services director Linda Clegg’s salary and services with Lancashire County Council, Blackburn with Darwen Council has saved £267,000 a year.

Cllr Kay warned that council fees and charges for services including burials cremations, leisure and sports centres, business waste collection and theatres and concerts would rise above inflation.

He said the 3.99 per cent rise was made up of two per cent for adult social care, including looking after the elderly, and 1.99 for other services.

With an additional 1.99 per cent to pay for Lancashire Police and one per cent for the fire and rescue service, the total council tax bill for the 35,400 ‘Band A homes’ which make up more than half the borough’s 60,900 properties will rise by £36.24 from £993.85 to £1,030.09.

Residents of Darwen and several parishes will pay slightly more.

Cllr Lee urged the Finance Council to support the two per cent rise for adult social care but scrap the other 1.99 per cent rise.

He said: “We welcome the cost saving and job reduction proposals although we wish to examine their impact on vital front-line services.

“We would like to see the borough look at other efficiencies including cutting the £500,000 a year bill for councillors by cutting their number from 64 by a third to around 40.”

Liberal Democrat leader, Cllr David Foster, said the council tax rise and service cuts were inevitable given the policies of the new Tory only government.

UNISON North West Regional Organiser, David Atkinson, said: “This is terrible news for people in Blackburn and Darwen.

“Cuts are already having an impact on service provision.

“Services are understaffed and staff are struggling to keep services functioning for the public.

“News of further job cuts will be a big blow to council staff and to service users.

“Central Government cuts are forcing councils across the county to cut back valuable services and much-needed jobs.”

Cllr Kay accused the government of heaping more responsibilities on the council without the cash needed to pay for them.

Hyndburn council has frozen its council tax for the seventh year running but last night Ribble Valley Council’s budget meeting was due to confirm a £5 a year increase in the bill for a Band D property.

Residents in the two boroughs and Chorley also face a 3.99 per county tax increase from Lancashire County Council adding £60 a year to the bills of a Band D property.