More than 500 employees at Dorset Council have been told their jobs could be at risk.

Staff from five areas of the council including human resources, finance and IT were yesterday sent letters informing them that they could potentially lose their job as part of the restructuring following the merging of six councils into one in April.

Employees who were sent letters are in a range of roles, the council said. Staff will now enter a 45-day consultation period.

Dorset Council chief executive Matt Prosser said the council is 'delivering what it removing the duplication [of roles] from bringing six councils together into one'.

The restructuring is expected to save £5.5m in this financial year, and £10million in a full financial year, Mr Prosser said.

Trade union Unison South West has said it will support employees through the change.

In a statement yesterday, Mr Prosser said: "This particular consultation is anticipated to achieve a £3million saving which has already been reinvested back into communities to protect the services we know Dorset residents value, as part of the 2019/20 budget agreed by the Shadow Council earlier this year.

"Today, 561 employees in corporate service functions have been told their jobs are potentially at risk. Of these 561 employees, some are employed full time and some are part time.

"Under consultation, the proposal is for a reduction of 93.44 full time equivalent (FTE) posts. Of these, 64.14 are currently vacant FTE roles. This means a total of 29.42 FTE roles could be impacted.

"We have worked closely with our trade unions on this process to date and will continue to work with them and our workforce, to support them at what is a challenging time."

Unison is urging the council to "avoid compulsory job losses."

Dorset branch secretary for Unison, Amanda Brown, said: "These proposals will bring a great deal of uncertainty to our members and we will be working hard to ensure the proposals are fit for purpose and, where possible, we can deal with job losses via voluntary redundancies rather than compulsory ones.

"This is the last part of a process to combine six councils and our intention is to give as much support as we can to employees through this change."

Dorset Council said the previous phase of staff restructuring, which ran from the end of January and was completed in June, affected senior manager roles across the council and contributed to cost savings.

As previously reported, the council is forecasting an overspend of £7.1million for this financial year, in what the deputy leader has called "a challenging time."