THE BOROUGH council is in dispute with more than 90 women over equal pay claims, it has been revealed.

Reading Borough Council (RBC) has forked out more than £3m to 87 claimants, including staff at John Madejski Academy in Hartland Road.

Minister for employment and MP for Reading West Alok Sharma took a swipe at the council's Labour group on social media recently, urging them to "do something about equal pay for women".

The authority has been forced to shell out an astonishing amount of cash in legal fees, to the tune of £1.5m to date.

Councils nationwide face hefty claims from women who were historically paid unfairly.

And RBC still has 94 claims which it needs to settle, including claimants at George Palmer Academy in Northumberland Avenue, Reading.

A spokesman for REAch2, the trust which runs George Palmer Academy, said: “REAch2 is an equal opportunities employer and we believe in fair and equal pay.

"We are not able to provide any further details on this specific claim as it is sub judiciary.”

Many of the claims have come from Doran Law, a group of no win no fee lawyers.

Jo Lovelock, leader of the council, said the council is willing to negotiate with the outstanding claimants, 70 of whom are being represented by Doran Law.

She said: "The point we have reached now is because Doran Law are urging their clients to to hold out (for more money).

"Some of that is in the hands of the claimants and their solicitor rather than in our hands. We are willing to negotiate and have done so now with many of the applicants who were represented by the trade union."

In response, solicitor Mr Doran said: "We have been asking the council consistently since 2010 to meet with us to discuss settlement yet they and their solicitors refuse to even respond to correspondence suggesting meetings. Offers of settlement were made last summer which, in many cases amounted to little more than a third of the value of the claim. The majority of my clients quite rightly rejected those offers.

"The council lost the its defence to these claims in 2011 yet have since racked up £1.5m in legal costs making the women prove their jobs were equal in value to the men’s.  

"We presently find ourselves in a situation in which the council has lost the case against it, has accepted that a number of the women are entitled to between £50,000 - £150,000 in compensation yet refuses to make the payment until an Employment Tribunal makes an actual order requiring it to."