NORTHERN councils have been financially “gutted” compared to their southern counterparts, a leading councillor claimed.

Blackburn with Darwen Council environment boss Cllr Jim Smith made the claim after Tory group leader Cllr John Slater accused council chiefs of mismanaging finances.

Latest figures before the council’s executive board forecasted a £1million overspend in the environment budget as well as £1.2m in adult and children’s services and more than £500,000 in leisure and culture

Cllr Slater said the figures were mind-boggling and something was fundamentally wrong with how the council was being run.

But Labour bosses hit back saying the council had been one of the worst affected in the country by government cuts.

And there was a North-South divide in terms of where those cuts were focused, Cllr Smith claimed.

Cllr Slater said: “Culture and leisure is supposed to generate income, not cost us money.

“At the end of the day we are in a situation where the council is financially restrained but some of these figures are mind-boggling.”

Cllr Smith said: “Our budget has been halved over the years due to government cuts.

“Everything we have brought in to help with budget pressures like green waste collection charges, you have voted against.

“You are not a responsible politician.”

Cllr Slater added: “Every council in the country has had pressures on their budget.

“Recycling rates have gone from one of the three best in the North West to one of the two worst.

“You can’t keep blaming government cuts - there is something fundamentally wrong.”

Cllr Smith said: “We are a very responsible council and we are doing some work that we expect to turn the recycling rate around.

“A lot of staff have gone and that is because of government cuts.

“If you check southern councils compared to the north, you will find we have been gutted compared to them.”

Executive member for children, young people and education, Cllr Maureen Bateson, said: “We are one of the most deprived authorities in the country.

“The number of children going into care is increasing rapidly and the money I need to spend on statutory services means my colleagues don’t have the money to spend that they need.

“The numbers are getting to an alarming stage but that is only half of the problem.

“Unfortunately it is cuts to non-statutory services that fund this. Every day people complain about fly-tipping. People want things done they can see and they are not interested how many kids we take into care.”