ALMOST a quarter of a council's employees have been told their salaries are to be cut.

The decision was broken to staff by email after Blackburn with Darwen Council bosses gave the green light to its new pay scale.

Some workers are reporting drops of as much as £10,000 per year, and opposition politicians have called for the settlement to be reconsidered.

The government has told every council in the country to set up a single pay scale to end years of inequalities between staff.

It is up to each authority to set their own "scale", the benchmark against which each salary is set. Councils also had to compensate staff who were underpaid under the old system.

Under the "equal pay settlement", 5,500 jobs have been evaluated by the council - 24 per cent of salaries will go down, 46 per cent are set to increase and the remaining 30 per cent will stay the same.

The move ends lengthy talks between council and union bosses to draw up the pay scale, which looked doomed last month when union representatives walked away from the negotiating table.

Local government union Unison's branch secretary and her assistant have both resigned recently, but the union has refused to comment on whether these were related to the negotiations. Following the announcement of the new pay scale, given the green light by the council's ruling executive board, union chiefs will ballot their members on whether to accept the changes.

But a refusal, which could result in a strike, is unlikely as only a minority of staff will see their salaries cut.

Neither the council or the unions would reveal precisely which jobs' salaries will go up and down.

But one council worker, who did not want to be named, said: "It's officers and administration staff in the regeneration department who have been hit worst.

"People have lost between £3,000 and £10,000. Morale is at rock bottom, particularly with this coming just before Christmas."

But opposition councillors have "called in" the decision, meaning it will be debated again by a council committee.

But council leader Coun Colin Rigby said the new structure had reduced the pay gap between men and women.

He added: "The council will provide some protection to those employees whose roles will be paid less and is considering other ways of minimising any impact on these employees."