CASH-STRAPPED chiefs at Cumbria’s top tier authority have spoken of their battle to balance the books against a backdrop of swingeing cuts and uncertainty over Brexit.

The comments from Deputy Leader Peter Thornton came as the cabinet voted through budget plans, ahead of next week’s crunch meeting of the full council.

This will be the ninth year of reductions of central Government funding which has seen the council’s funding slashed by more than £130m at a time of ever rising demand.

The draft revenue budget, the medium-term financial plan and the draft capital programme will all go before full council on Valentine’s Day.

The council’s top Revenue Support Grant 2011/12 was £148million pounds, but this year it will be £17.8million pounds.

The council has so far saved £249million but needs to find another £47million over the next three years.

Coun Thornton, cabinet member for finance, presented the reports to the authority’s decision-making body who voted through the recommendations.

He said: “This council will be able to pay its way during the next 12 months. You might say this is a modest ambition. But there is more than one council in the UK which would dearly like to be able to say those words and to propose a council tax rise of less than the maximum allowed, as indeed we are proposing in this budget.

“This budget is set against a backdrop of uncertainty – and I can see no end to it within the next few years.

“Whatever choices are made, there are no easy and quick solutions. That much has become painfully obvious, and there are consequences for our future budgets.”

Coun Thornton said that aligning council income with growth might work in the south east of England but was “not so great” for many northern councils.

He also expressed concern over the fate of those Cumbrian businesses which work closely with Europe, describing the spectre of a No Deal Brexit as “disastrous”.

The General Fund Balance target has been increased from £10million pounds to £15million pounds as the council dig into its reserves.

The council has a Capital Programme of almost £196million, which includes new residential provision for Looked After Children which they have said will reduce their reliance on out of county placements.

The authority is also poised to open two new care homes in Copeland and in Carlisle in addition to the one already opened in Barrow.

Council chiefs have also pledged to give grant support to care facilities across the county to help people who find it too difficult to continue living in their own homes.