Tories have been accused of “meanness” after freezing council workers’ pay for the third year on the trot.
Staff at South Cambridgeshire District Council have been told a 2.5 per cent increase budgeted for this year will not happen, following similar decisions in 2010/11 and 2011/12.
The last time employees got a rise was 2009/10, when salaries rose by 1 per cent.
Cllr John Williams, the Liberal Democrat finance spokesman, said: “Our staff are working extremely hard with limited resources and we shouldn’t be kicking them in the face in this way.”
The decision follows a string of moves which triggered warnings of low morale among staff at the council, including the leaking of an email in which Cllr Tom Bygott, then a cabinet member, claimed the planning department existed “mainly to provide work for unemployed architects” and was “actively hostile to the interests of residents”.
In a separate decision to the pay freeze, more than 130 council staff are in line for a pay cut as part of a major review to match salaries to responsibilities and workloads, although 202 employees will get a rise and 82 will be unaffected.
John Toomey, regional organiser for the Unison union, said staff should get the budgeted rise.
He said: “This was an opportunity for South Cambridgeshire to show it actually valued its staff but instead it is pocketing the savings for purely political reasons – it’s sheer meanness on their part.”
Cllr Simon Edwards, the council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, said: “Our staff do a fantastic job and freezing pay is never an easy decision – but all councils are under unprecedented pressure as budgets are squeezed.
“We already knew we need to make savings this year, and this decision will protect more staff from the prospect of redundancy and will mean we will not need to cut front-line services for residents.”
He added: “We have always been very clear we would follow the national pay negotiations before taking a decision and they have recommended no cost of living pay award this year.”