KEYWORKERS could be forced to take three days unpaid leave next Christmas, under £40 million cost cutting plans.

Town Hall chiefs say that they have to make nearly £40 million worth of savings in one year to stave off a financial crisis ­— and stress that at this stage nothing has been finalised and are proposals, which will go out to consultation.

Unison has described the three day unpaid leave proposal as a "slap in the face" for all those employees who have continued to work during the pandemic.

Trade unions say that the council employs a lot of lower paid staff, who "struggle to meet their financial obligations".

Unison's Bolton-branch secretary, Andrea Egan said: "It is a slap in the face for workers, who during the covid pandemic have received public recognition for their work. This is a pay cut through the back door and comes as the chancellor announced pay freezes for public sector staff.

"The council is in effect giving staff an enforced three days off, telling them they will use that leave at Christmas, and they will pay for that leave, equating to at least a one per cent pay cut. The care staff who are in the midst of the covid crisis still have to work over Christmas but will take the leave at another time.”

She added: “During a global crisis, key workers have worked through this pandemic and put themselves in arms reach of this virus and now there jobs are at risk."

The Bolton News reported that more that 200 posts have been earmarked for redundancy.

The cuts have been driven by the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to millions being lost from council coffers through the loss of business rates and Manchester Airport Group dividend and other income streams.

Andrea said: "These cuts to be made in 12 months are unprecedented.

"Our members who have been working through the pandemic should not have to pay for the crisis caused by coronavirus."

She called upon the ruling Tory group to go to the Government and demand extra support and keep its promise of "levelling-up"

Andrea said: "This government have the money to adequately fund public services, but instead choice to pay out billions for a failed track and trace system, put testing into the hands of a private company Serco, pay out millions on inadequate PPE buy say public sector workers have to pay towards this crisis. It is a national disgrace and I expect our local politicians to lobby this government for adequate funding to provide local services, and keep our workers in work so they in turn use their local pound to spend in our local economy."

Leader of Bolton Council, Cllr David Greenhalgh said the proposals could change in light of the Government's spending review announced last and future announcements

He said: "We are still seeking quite a bit of detail from the chancellor's announcement as to how it affects Bolton Council.

"This is very much a moving situation, it's very fluid.

"We know there will be some additional funds and we are just seeking the absolute detail, and the announcement of the settlement for local authorities is yet to be made by Government."

He added: "There is the willingness to certainly look at removing things if we possibly can.

"We go into the consultation very much with a open mind with a view to be able to removing some items if we have the funds.

The proposals will discussed by Bolton Council's cabinet committee this evening.