COST-CUTTING changes to salaries and incentives will be put to staff at Huntingdonshire District Council next week, The Hunts Post can reveal.

Formal consultation will open next week on the plans, which could save nearly £500,000 a year by 2014/15.

If they go ahead, 12 of the council's 15 salary bands would be narrowed by reducing the upper boundary, staff appraisals and incentives would be re-thought and operational overtime would be standardised.

A process of consultation will begin on Monday (September 5), followed by drop-in clinics for concerned employees, before a decision is made in January.

If agreed, the changes would take effect on April 1, 2012.

The council said that the changes, saving £444,000 on top of the council's identified savings by 2014/15, were necessary to reach its outstanding target of £2million savings, and would protect jobs in 
the long term.

Nearly 1,000 members of staff are affected by the changes, but the documents leaked to The Hunts Post say "there will be no immediate change to existing salaries although over time some salaries may rise and some may fall as a result of these proposals".

Of the 12 pay bands under review, the bottom three - bands 10, 11 and 12 - would have their upper ceiling cut by more than 10 per cent, while the higher-paid bands would see reductions of no more than two per cent.

Staff already at the top of their pay grade, facing a reduction under the amendments, would have their salary protected for three years but would miss out on cost-of-living increases.

Workers in the council's three lowest-paid salary bands (13, 14 and 15) - operational workers including street cleaners, refuse collectors and grounds maintenance staff - would see their basic pay increased but bonus payments reduced.

Treble-rate overtime on Saturdays following bank holidays would be replaced by the standard time-and-a-half paid for evenings and weekends, and they would receive a monthly £150 payment for 100 per cent attendance and punctuality.

"By making this change we aim to maintain a strong incentive for staff to ensure very high levels of attendance and performance while providing a secure basic pay and reducing the number of disputes around the implementation of this incentive system," says the document.

An HDC spokesman said that the council's 17-year-old pay structure had become "less than ideal" and that savings across all areas were required.

She added: "If these proposals go ahead, the savings will amount to over £838,000 [including those already identified], ultimately making a substantial contribution to the savings needed to be made and helping to protect jobs.

"These changes are needed to ensure that employees are paid fairly. However, this also needs to be balanced with a pay system that is affordable."