Council leader Steve Count is planning a “gesture of unity” by handing back part of his allowance in support of the 1,800 county council staff forced to take unpaid leave this Christmas as part of cost saving measures.

Cllr Count said he will put a motion to Cambridgeshire County Council in December "calling on all parties and members to unite with us, by taking a decrease in allowances equivalent to the workforce of approximately 1.2 per cent."

The county council needs to save money to meet an expected £14..6 million shortfall in its budget and announced a saving of £900,000 by insisting those 1,800 members of staff earning above £25,000 a year must take three days unpaid leave at Christmas.

The 3,100 staff members earning less than £25,000 will not be affected.

Cllr Count, as leader, is paid £31,745 a year on top of the £10,315 all councillors receive as a basic allowance.

Last year councillors voted to give themselves a hefty 30 per cent rise and payments for 'special responsibilities' also rose to a level in excess of the council's own impendent remuneration panel's recommendations.

But Cllr Count believes that argument is long gone and it is the present situation facing the council that matters.

"As leader and after discussions with my Conservative group and the Labour group leader Councillor Joan Whitehead, we are united in sending a message to our staff that we are in this together," he said.

He said there were only nine councillors including himself who were paid above the £25,000 threshold "but my group is unanimous in that each and every one of us will take the reduction.

"I ask that leaders of the other groups and all members show their commitment to this course of action by voting for our motion in December."

Cllr Count added: "As councillors we are often called upon during any part of the year, so we do not have a holiday entitlement the same as the workforce, therefore the three extra days extra unpaid leave will not apply to us.

"Enacting this clause in the workforce's contract was necessary due to the well-known and unprecedented demands on our budget.

"The savings generated by this motion from councillors will be approximately £9,000 compared to the significant £900,000 we will save from the staffing budget.

"I therefore recognise that our saving contribution is more a gesture of unity than financially significant."

Cllr Count added: "As councillors we are asked repeatedly to make difficult decisions and strive for a balance, not just for our residents but also for our hard-working staff.

"I am proud of the way the workforce has stepped forward year after year in delivering more for less, primarily through transformation and efficiency.

"As the leader of the administration I thank them for their efforts and promise to continue to do my utmost to maintain this council on a sound financial footing, thereby avoiding the harshest of decisions some councils nationally have already been forced to take.