TORY councillors in Blackburn with Darwen said people had to live within their means as they voted against writing to government bosses about the impact of austerity in the borough.

They voted against a motion put forward by Cllr Vicky McGurk and said spending cuts were necessary because of the financial circumstances of the country.

But they clashed with Labour group members who said Government policy meant the poorest people in society were the ones hit hardest.

Cllr McGurk said: “As a result of benefit freezes, many families are unable to qualify for the 15 hours of 2 year olds free child care because the national minimum wage now exceeds the qualifying income level.

“In addition to this, our chief executive and our MPs must also ask what the Government is going to do to alleviate the increases of poverty, including in work poverty levels now internationally recognised by the UN and others.

“Blackburn with Darwen Council calls for the reversal of the freeze of benefits, and demands an increase to all benefits and eligibility criteria in line with inflation, including the 15 hour offer of childcare for two year olds from £16,180 per year, which is the rate set in 2014.”

Cllr John Pearson said people had to take personal responsibility for their circumstances and not rely on benefits.

He added: "In my own family, my son does not have to rely on free child care. He has to pay for it but he is struggling and he and his wife are juggling things to provide the best.

"We have direct responsibility and it is down to us as individuals to do the best we can with the resources we have and not depend on others."

Labour environment boss, Cllr Jim Smith, said he fundamentally disagreed with that point of view.

He said: "There is a massive difference between struggling as a family with £3,000 to £4,000 a month to £1,500 to £2,000 coming in.

"You can worry all you want about your son and his wife but they are on good money. I'm lucky to be on good money myself. We can afford things but other people can't and you need to understand that.

"There is nothing wrong with people needing financial help."

Cllr Maureen Bateson said parents who choose to stay at home should not be demonised or made to suffer financially because of their decision because often support for children could be just as important as bringing money in from work.

She added: "These austerity measures are not working and it is the poor that have paid the real price. A lot of the support we could have given to our citizens is no longer available."

And borough growth and development boss Cllr Phil Riley said: "The financial crash was certainly not caused by the poor of this country so they should certainly not be the ones to bear the brunt of the fallout."

But Tory group leader, Cllr John Slater, said his group would vote against the motion.

He added: "Austerity is living within your means and that's what we have got to do.

"We have to make decisions on what we cut and what we don't.

"Our Government has made difficult choices and been re-elected and re-elected again.

"The people of this borough want them in charge.

"We have to vote against this motion."

Despite their opposition, Cllr McGurk’s motion was passed.

Earlier this year, resources chief Cllr Andy Kay said the authority was faced with slashing £8 million from its budget for 2019/20.

He said the savings were needed to ensure a balanced budget and to offset any other emerging cost pressures in-year, as well as to replenish reserves ahead of more significant savings that may be required from 2020/21.

A study published in January showed people in Blackburn with Darwen are among those to have borne the brunt of austerity the hardest.

A report produced by thinktank Centre for Cities showed Blackburn with Darwen was in the top five areas in the UK for reduced spend in local authorities between 2009/10 and 2017/18.

According to figures in the report, Blackburn with Darwen Council has reduced its spending by 26.7 per cent – that equates to a £542 cut per resident over that time.