COUNTY council bosses will seek to forge partnerships with other authorities before ‘privatising’ services – as they face the prospect of a £160million cuts programme.

Lancashire’s leaders have already found £140million from a wider £300million savings project but need to demonstrate where the rest can be found before April 2018.

The after-shocks of One Connect, County Hall’s ill-fated outsourcing deal with telecoms giant BT is still being felt, with an ongoing police inquiry into payments to former chief executive David McElhinney.

And while there is increasing pressure for local authorities to consider similar link-ups with the private sector, finance chief Coun David Borrow will be exploring other avenues first after ‘some people got their fingers burned’.

He said: “One of the things that local government needs to retain is its ability to change quickly. The more we get tied into long-term contracts, the less flexibility we have.

“Our approach would be that we would rather look to develop services with other public sector organisations so that we retain some control, while keeping some of the benefits of being part of a much larger organisation, the benefits of scale.”

The Labour administration’s budget strategy will be presented in November, and debated right through to a February full council meeting, when a deciding vote will be held.

Coun Borrow has pledged to ‘protect those services that look after the most vulnerable members of society’ but accepts that the service level provided to the county’s 12 boroughs will be diminished.

He said that the actual overall savings figure, achieved by the county council since cuts became a way of life in 2010, is closer to £530million.

Opposition Conservative leader Coun Geoff Driver said: “They are going about tackling this problem in entirely the wrong way.

“What are their priorities? Where do they believe the reductions should come from? What they seem to be doing is inviting people to apply for voluntary redundancy without explaining how their new structure would work.”

Earlier this year the county council confirmed it was looking to lose 2,500 posts from a 13,000 strong workforce.