A council has refused to pay all of its employees the living wage – despite just three workers earning less than the £7.85 an hour standard.

The Liberal Democrat proposal was turned down despite the fact it would cost Lewes District Council just £2,300 a year.

The national minimum wage is £6.31 an hour, with the living wage – calculated as the amount needed to cover the basic costs of living – is slightly higher at £7.85.

Liberal Democrat councillor Sarah Osborne proposed to put all council workers on the living wage. The plan was put to the council, but voted down by 18 to 15.

Coun Osborne said: “This was a callous and heartless decision by the Tories and UKIP, who clearly don’t care about their own employees.

“Clearly the Blue meanies are firmly in control of the council.”

Liberal Democrat Councillor John Stockdale, for Lewes Bridge ward, said: “To be kind to the Tories and UKIP, I think they are always a bit backward looking and unprogressive.

“What they have to fear from paying staff a living wage is something I cannot understand.”

However Councillor Rob Blackman, who represents Seaford East, said the cost of the policy would be borne by the taxpayer. As a result, he argued, the wider impact should be investigated further.

He said: “The simple answer is that I don’t know what the implications are and we need to do more work.

“This isn’t just a ‘no’. It’s a ‘go away and do your homework, then come back to us’”.

A spokesperson for Lewes District Council said: “Within Lewes District Council there are three trainee members of staff, working within Waste and Recycling, who are paid about 40 pence an hour below the living wage.

“Lewes District Council’s Management Team is currently considering the living wage in liaison with Eastbourne Borough Council as the two councils have many shared services and wish to be consistent in their approach.”