Hundreds of council staff are earning less than the London Living Wage in a “worrying” trend that is worsening year on year.

Barnet Council says it will look into its pay policy after it emerged almost 400 employees are being paid less than the recommended rate.

The Living Wage Foundation, campaigning for “basic but acceptable” pay for workers across the UK, has called on the authority to address the issue.

Figures obtained by the Times Series showed 388 council workers directly employed by the authority earn less than the recommended £8.55 per hour, or £16,049 a year.

The London Living Wage has increased in recent years, while public sector wages have been frozen as local authorities battle a vastly increased financial deficit.

In 2010, just one of Barnet Council’s pay bands fell below the wage but this financial year it rose to six.

Labour group leader Alison Moore said the figures painted a demoralising picture for those at the lower end of the pay scale.

She said: “I was surprised it has risen as much it has. It suggests to me a worrying trend of a weakening position of the lowest paid in the council.

“It is those at the lower end of the pay scale that bear the brunt of these pay policies and they are often the people who do the jobs no one else wants to do. It’s an erosion of their position within the council and that concerns me.”

Barnet Council’s last chief executive earned a salary of more than £210,000 and the council is advertising the vacant position at £177,000 to £187,000.

Councillor Moore believes the authority needs to address the disparity between the lowest and highest ends of the pay scale.

The Living Wage Foundation also called on Barnet Council to “follow its neighbours" in signing up to the policy, pointing to nearby authorities in Brent, Camden and Islington that are already signed up to the living wage.

Director Rhys Moore said: “It is up to every employer to decide but for those employers that can pay it, we think it is essential.

“I think it’s important that local authorities demonstrate some leadership on this. It makes it much easier for them to encourage the private sector to do the same.”

Councillor Moore raised the issue at a recent council meeting and believes that if she had not done so it would have “slipped through the net”.

Barnet Council leader Richard Cornelius echoed Councillor Moore’s concerns and pledged to review the policy.

He said: “We have carried out a review of senior staff salaries and we are now going on to look at other salaries across the council.

“I’m personally supportive of the London Living Wage if the budget permits, but one always has to be mindful of pay differentials, which is why this has to form part of a wider review.”