SOME of Hyndburn's poorest residents face critical delays in receiving benefits because of a crisis in the council's housing benefits department.
In a bid to save cash, council bosses have ordered eight per cent cuts across all departments.
But with 10 per cent of the benefit department's staff off sick with stress and no money to fill four vancancies, essential claims are going unprocessed.
Councillor Jean Battle said: "They are 84 days behind in assessing people's claims and this has a knock-on effect for residents.
"Employees there are stressed because they have so many hours' work to fill. It's totally unacceptable.
"If you're a young mother and your landlord's crying out for his money it will cause real concern. You'll be in arrears before you know it."
Area councils manager Steve Watson, representative for public services union Unison, said: "On 11 February I asked for a meeting with the managing director, David Welsby, to discuss the vacant posts in the benefits section and how this may be affecting attendance levels in that area. So far I've not had a response."
Finance boss Councillor John Griffiths said: "Everybody is under pressure in the authority because it's been living beyond its means.
"They are good staff and understand that we need to bring our finances back into line.
"It's not easy in any department and we'll try to relieve pressure whenever possible."
Joe McIntyre, chief finance officer, said performance in the housing benefits department had never been as high as they would have liked, but it was improving.
He added: "We've had no particular representation from unions or staff about the levels of pressure they are put under. We are not squeezing an area that is already crumbling."