ESSEX county councillors voted to give themselves a raise – while county hall workers claim jobs cuts are looming over them.

Councillors increased their basic allowance by 6.1 per cent to £11,500.

But the union Unison claims to have seen a council document discussing plans to axe 85 jobs, a two-year pay freeze, cut working hours from 37 and 36 hours to 35 hours a week, and stop sick pay for the first three days.

Councillors voted for the rise following an independent review of the council’s expenses by Sir Rodney Brooke.

Under the new scheme, council leader Peter Martin has an allowance of £53,500 and the eight cabinet members are paid £35,310 for their duties – up from around £27,000.

Babs Whitfield, branch secretary at Unison, said: “I was absolutely appalled when I heard.

“We know it’s hard times and would be willing to sit down, talk about the situation and work through it together.

“They’re talking about a two-year pay freeze and lots of other cuts, but now the members are getting this raise.”

County councillors can also receive other perks, including the use of a Blackberry mobile to receive e-mails. Councillors on business in large UK cities can claim up to £150 a night for a hotel, or £100 a night for other parts of the country.

Food costs are also paid to members on council business, with up to £5 for breakfast, £10 for lunch and up to £20 for dinner.

Mr Martin said allowances had not been reviewed since 2005 and would not be changed again until 2013, and said it was a relatively small raise.

He said research on ways to save the council money was also being carried out. Mr Martin said: “This represents a small increase that is below the average rate of inflation.”