CONSERVATIVE councillors have warned that cutting the wages of more than a third of BCP Council employees would be “extremely damaging”.

Plans for a £2.1 million pay and review were unveiled last week due to the risk that pay differences could lead to equal pay challenges.

Almost two-thirds of its employees are paid below the national median for their position and would be in line for a raise but concerns have been raised that the remainder could have salaries “slashed”.

Last year, during the merger of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole councils, consultancy Korn Ferry was commissioned to look at staff pay and workload differences the new unitary authority would inherit.

It said there was “significant variation” between the contracts of the 5,500-plus employees.

Sixty-two per cent were found to be getting a wage below the median rate for their positions while the remainder were on salaries above what could be expected.

“The council needs to address the inconsistencies in job-sizing and pay arrangements to mitigate the risk of equal pay challenges,” the report said.

“This will require a sizeable level of investment to achieve but in doing so the council also has an opportunity to improve its position in the job market and introduce a modern and more integrated platform for developing its workforce.”

The council said the net cost of bringing pay into line would be about £2.7 million but this included inflationary raises – for which £2.9 million has already been budgeted.

Speaking at Wednesday's cabinet meeting where the review was discussed, council leader Vikki Slade said work would be managed “very sensitively” to reduce disruption.

But Conservative Philip Broadhead said pay reductions should be avoided.

“Thirty-eight per cent of council staff would likely see a wage slash,” he said. “These are real people with real families and it could be extremely damaging to them.

“We have seen a great deal of spending announcements. This is the first time we hear about savings and it’s a bit surprising that it is when we are cutting staff wages.”

But cabinet member for finance, councillor David Brown, urged people to consider that 62 per cent of council staff would also get a pay rise.

The cabinet unanimously agreed to start work on the review, although approval of the £2.1 million need to fund the “external support” to oversee it will need to be given by the full council on Tuesday.