The Copeland mayor’s “zero cuts” budget has been unanimously approved by the council’s cross-party executive, winning praise from the leaders of the main political parties.

Tory David Moore and Labour’s Michael McVeigh both endorsed the plans, which look set to be approved when they go before full council on February 10 – unless an alternative budget is put forward.

The financial plan has been thrashed out against a background of central Government cutbacks which have seen the authority’s funding reduced from £10.1 million to £8.6m since 2012.

But despite a shrinking pot of cash from Whitehall, the proposals would see council tax rise by 1.95 per cent for the fifth year running – less than the slice taken by other authorities across Cumbria.

This is part of a commitment to keep increases below the retail price index.

In real terms means Copeland council’s share of burden has reduced since 2015.

Mike Starkie, Copeland’s independent mayor, told leading councillors that despite the “increasingly difficult conditions”, the council has managed to make service improvements.

The authority is now striving to make the most of its assets and is working up bids to attract investment across the borough as part of a “commercialisation” drive.

Leading councillors have attributed some of this success to a move away from employing “expensive” consultants  and interims, towards investing in its own staff.

Backing the budget, Councillor David Moore, leader of the Conservatives, said having fully-staffed council teams had allowed officers to go through the plans “forensically” and “line by line”.

He said: “We know there’s been cuts but if you look at how we have handled that and managed that, we are in a really good position.

“We have the opportunity to go for a three per cent increase [in council tax] if we wanted, but again we have stuck at that 1.95 per cent.

“It shows across the borough we are committed to keeping the charge for the rate-payers as low as we possibly can but still delivering the best services.”

Labour leader Coun Mike McVeigh described the budget as “fantastic work”, though he also expressed some concerns over the cuts in Government funding.

Independent councillor Stephen Morgan, a former US Navy admiral turned Sellafield director, said the budget demonstrated council’s commitment to “efficiency and commercialisation”.

Over the last five years, increases on fees and charges in Copeland have averaged approximately two per cent annually.

This is below inflation and a significant reduction from the period 2011 to 2015 when fees and charges were increasing at more the 4.75 per cent annually.

The last five years has also seen increased investment in areas such as street cleaning, bereavement and IT.