The leading Cumbrian councillors seeking to create of a controversial £22 million Brexit “slush fund” have insisted they are merely being “prudent”.

But the Conservatives have accused the county council cabinet of “doom-mongering” and “squirreling away” cash that would be better spent on more important matters like fixing Cumbria’s roads.

The budget proposals set to be discussed at today’s (Thursday, February 13) meeting of the full council wound see an extra £4.5m set aside every year up to 2024/55 to deal with “potential inflationary pressures” associated with Brexit.

The Labour-led administration’s contingency plan comes despite recent Bank of England forecasts that Britain’s exit from the EU would not spark damaging inflationary pressure.

Council leader Stewart Young described the comments from the Conservatives as a “bit rich”, blaming a decade of “Tory cuts” on the state of the roads.

He said: “To put it in perspective, we are allowing about £9m next year for pay and price inflation, which is an increase of about two per cent on our budget.

“The Prime Minister may have claimed that Brexit was done on 31 January, but that was only the Withdrawal Agreement.

“He still has to do a deal by the end of this year, or we crash out without a deal. So great uncertainty remains which is why we are providing £4.5m next year to cover the risk of an extra one per cent inflation on top of our normal two per cent provision.

“If we don’t need it, that’s fine. It can go towards the £34m of further savings we still have to find thanks to continuing cuts to our government grant.

“We are being responsible and prudent by making provision for an extra one per cent increase in our costs as a result of Brexit.”

However, Conservative councillors look set to challenge the proposals and to make amendments.

Gareth Ellis, deputy leader of Carlisle City Council and a Conservative county councillor, said: “The Labour-led council starves our roads of investment and blames Tory cuts.

“And we see the reality of what’s happening. Taking £4.5 million pounds out of council services every year for four years to create £22 million fund on the pretence of extra Brexit inflationary pressures, something denied by the Bank of England.

“Don’t spend £22 million on a fake Brexit slush fund, spend it on our roads and potholes instead.

“The residents of Carlisle and Cumbria want more money spent on improving our infrastructure, not doomster predictions not based on any financial advice.”

Stephen Haraldsen, another prominent Conservative county councillor, will be seeking more clarity on what the council proposes to do with the cash if the anticipated “inflationary pressures” do not materialise.

He said: “The Prime Minister has made a good job of things, but this budget is full of examples of this administration squirrelling money away. People have had enough of Brexit fear-mongering.”