Public sector workers, including NHS staff, could lose their final salary pension rights because of the big shortfall in the value of the pension funds, according to The Times.

The paper says that John Denham, the communities secretary, is drawing up a series of proposals covering the short, medium and longer terms.

It claims to have spoken to a senior local government official who said that doctors and nurses could face similar changes to their NHS pensions as the public sector burden becomes unaffordable.

The sources are said to have suggested that proposals include moving to a career-average scheme, a system adopted for recruits to the civil service.

The Department for Communities and Local Government told The Times it would ensure that council pensions were fair, solvent and affordable.

The Yorkshire Post has reported that councils in the Yorkshire region are grappling with a £4.5bn pensions black hole.

Its investigation said that Leeds city council had the largest deficit - £715m - nearly twice as much as the next-worst Kirklees metropolitan council on £380.1m.