FINANCE bosses facing a £2million shortfall in the budget because of controversial government pay rises for teachers today made assurances there would be no increase in council tax in Lancashire.

County Councillor Chris Cheetham, chairman of the finance committee, will spend today rejigging the 1999 budget to find the extra cash to pay teachers the 3.5 per cent rise announced by Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett yesterday.

Mr Cheetham said: "It is going to pose us a problem. We had budgeted to give teachers a three per cent pay rise but the extra 0.5 per cent leaves us about £2million short.

"I will spend today looking at the budget and hope to shave the money from it by looking at things like energy consumption. It certainly wouldn't seem sensible to take the money from education budgets and I won't be revisiting the council tax either so it will have to come from somewhere else."

Chairman of the education and training committee at Blackburn with Darwen Council Bill Taylor said he welcomed the news but that the extra cash would have to come from the education budget. He added: "The Labour group have spent the last three or four months working on the budget and we have made an allowance for a pay rise for teachers although I cannot say how much.

"It is our intention to put schools in the best possible position we can to accommodate the pay rise and have done our best to help them, but it is ultimately up to headteachers and governors to balance their books."

The pay rise was not warmly received by every teacher in East Lancashire.

Brian Peacock, headteacher of Intack Primary School, Blackburn, and assistant divisional secretary of the Blackburn with Darwen Branch of the National Union of Teachers, criticised the different awards for headteachers and other staff.

He said: "I'm not saying that I don't deserve a pay rise, in fact I'm sure we all do, but in a school where team work is essential this just serves to divide the staff and their loyalties while morale and spirits will also suffer.

"I'm very unhappy with it because it actual terms the award is much less than the 3.5 per cent announced and it will not help with the problems of recruiting and retaining staff at this school."

Converted for the new archive on 14 July 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.