LANCASHIRE County Council has banned staff using first class post without top level approval because second delivery is as quick.

They have joined Blackburn with Darwen and other East Lancs authorities in using the cheaper delivery service as standard.

Their move emerged as Manchester City Council announced it would save £200,000 a year by stopping using first class post because tests showed second class was as fast.

East Lancashire’s councils have scaled back their use of first class post since the price rises on April 30 increased the cost of second class stamp from 36p to 50p and first class from 46p to 60p.

Lancashire decided to use only second class to save cash and now only assistant chief executive Eddie Sutton can authorise first class for a specific service.

Council leader Geoff Driver said: “In 2010/11 we were spending nearly £1m a year on postage – half of which was first class mail. In the first three months of this year we have reduced that to 10 per cent.”

Blackburn operates a similar policy of second for all but the most urgent letters.

Now 79 per cent of all its mail is sent second class to save money.

Burnley Council uses second whenever possible applying a ‘common sense’ approach to the higher rate.

Pendle’s deputy chief executive Philip Mousdale said: “We encourage our staff to use the most economic postage service available, provided a letter does not need to arrive urgently.

“Where we have larger items, we tend to send them second class to save money. And, of course, we use email wherever possible.”

Hyndburn council sends the vast majority of its post second class ‘unless there is a case for real urgency’ while Rossendale used second class except for special items like legal letters.

A spokeswoman for Ribble Valley said: “We use second class whenever possible.”

But a Royal Mail spokesman said: “There is a clear distinction between first class and second class mail and this is reflected in how we process and deliver mail across the UK.”