OXFORDSHIRE County Council will not pay its workers the Oxford Living Wage – but insisted its staff were already financially well looked after.

The authority said implementing a Living Wage could cost between £2m and £20m.

It said it had already seen government funding cut by about half since 2010 and it insisted it was already under financial strain by dealing with increasing pressures on services such as social care and children’s services.

The council’s deputy leader Judith Heathcoat said: “The council does not have a living wage policy and the barrier for us is the cost. It depends on the way you implement it. It could be between £2m and £20m.

“There is a backdrop to all of this which is the increase of demand on services.”

Figures released by the county council showed nearly a fifth of its employees live in Oxford - and that 70.66 per cent of those are paid above or equal to the Oxford Living Wage already.

Mrs Heathcoat said: “I know from my moral perspective I need to ensure that we have a balanced budget and that that money will ensure we have services.

“Social workers are already paid above the Oxford Living Wage. We are paying social workers £14.67 an hour. We are definitely ensuring our staff are looked after.”

Last week county councillors turned down the chance to ask the Government for more money so it could give school and council workers in Oxfordshire a pay rise.

Labour’s county council leader Liz Brighouse had urged the council to agree to write two letters – including one to the prime minister Theresa May – but Conservative opponent Arash Fatemian said the discussion was using council workers as ‘political footballs’.

The majority of his councillor colleagues agreed and Mrs Brighouse’s motion was defeated at a council meeting on Tuesday.

Conversely, Oxford City Council announced last week that it would increase the Oxford Living Wage – the minimum rate it pays its staff – from £9.26 to £9.69 an hour in April. That will go up when the London Living Wage, on which it is weighted, increases. The Oxford Living Wage is 95 per cent of the London Living Wage.

The city council also encourages city businesses to do the same – but if they are unable to stretch that far, the city council has also promoted the Living Wage. That is organised by national charity, the Living Wage Foundation.

That will increase its rate by 30p to £8.75 an hour in April. This is higher than the mandatory rate of £7.50 for over 25s, set by the Government.

The city council pays at least the Oxford Living Wage to all of its staff and all contractors who are paid over £100,000 by the local authority must also pay the rate.

It said it encourages the rate to be paid so workers in Oxford can live free from poverty.