NINETEEN workers at two Lancashire County Council depots are being investigated over claims they have been stealing scrap metal.

Auditors were called into the Burnley depot at the Heasandford Industrial Estate, and the Rossendale depot in Futures Park, Bacup, after concerns were raised.

The highways department investigation centres on the disposal of unwanted items taken out of roads, including iron grids and telegraph poles.

But workers, who dig up and resurface roads, have claimed that it has long been an accepted perk of the job, and are angry at the way the council have conducted investigations.

But county council bosses said it has never been accepted practice for workers to sell scrap metal after jobs.

One source, who asked to remain anonymous claimed that the practice has been known about and accepted for years.

“It was accepted that whatever was pulled out of the roads could be weighed in for scrap as a perk of the job.

“But then the auditors came in and they are trying to make the lads out to be thieves. It’s disgusting.

“It is in job descriptions to take up and dispose of the scrap, but doesn’t specify how to dispose of it.

“This has been happening for a long time, and money from scrap has never gone back into the system.”

It is understood that there are around 30 workers at the Burnley depot, and 20 in the Rossendale depot.

Phil Barrett, director of Lancashire Highways Services, said: "I can confirm that we have carried out an investigation into allegations of metal theft at our depots in Burnley and Rossendale, involving 19 members of staff.

“It has never been county council policy to allow highways workers to sell on scrap metal and all relevant employees have been reminded of the procedure for dealing with such material."

No workers have been suspended, pending the outcome of formal proceedings.

Sandra Blight, GMB union representative for Lancashire County Council workers said she was aware of the case, but declined to comment further, as it was still unclear whether disciplinary action would take place.