LACK of clarity over Government funding is proving a serious obstacle to councils properly budgeting for the years to come, local authority chiefs have warned.

Councils up and down the country are still awaiting the outcome of the Government’s fair funding review, with the process severely delayed due to Brexit populations.

But council officials speaking at a Blackburn with Darwen audit and governance committee said it left local authorities between a rock and a hard place in terms of preparing for the future.

Cllr Ron Whittle said: “It’s disturbing for local government.

“We have cut our budget and spending phenomenally – it’s almost half in real terms since 2010 – but there is a limit to what we can do.

“If the Government moves the goalposts as to how much they give us, we could be in a really tough situation.

"We don't know what money we are going to get next year and neither does any other local authority.

"It could be a lot worse than the £6.6 million deficit. I'm not saying it will be like Northampton but we could be under the cosh.

“Councils have paid the biggest price for austerity. We are Cinderella in her mopping the floor phase.

“The Government is splashing around a lot of money at the money but I don’t think any of it is going to come our way.

“We are left holding the baby because we have to keep the show on the road.”

In advance of approving the 2019/20 budget, executive member for finance and governance Cllr Andy Kay said £8 million in savings were needed to balance the books and to offset any other emerging cost pressures in-year and replenish reserves ahead of more significant savings that may be required from 2020/21, once the outcome of the Fair Funding Review and Business Rates Retention Reviews are known.

Director of finance, Louise Mattinson, added: "There are working groups who have been looking at this for a considerable period of time but unfortunately the emphasis has been on Brexit and things have not progressed at the speed we hoped.

"The Medium Term Financial Strategy highlights an estimated deficit of £6.6m by the end of 2021/22 but that is based on a very broad set of assumptions in the absence of information from Government about funding.

“It could end up being £2 million or it could be £10 million.

“Unless something happens in the next few weeks, we have to work on the basis that it will be a rollover budget to some extent.

"We are producing a budget for 2020/21 and 2021/122 but there are so many assumptions in there in the absence of information.

"We have to try and piece it all together and commit to what the deficit might look like and put plans in place to try and deal with it."