A political row has broken out over whether East Lancashire's largest local authority overspent its budget by £45,000 or more than £4 million.

Blackburn with Darwen Council's finance boss Councillor Vicky McGurk told its executive board that in 2022/23 it kept its overspend to just £45,000.

However Conservative group leader Cllr John Slater said that by taking £4.06m out of reserves the authority has in fact broken its budget limits by a seven figure sum.

Cllr McGurk disputed his allegation, saying the planned transfer of cash from a special reserve fund had been 'baked in' at the council's finance council in February 2022.

She said taking this into account the overspend on the authority's original plan was just £45,000.

In addition, the council had taken out no new borrowing and had reduced its overall debt by £35m.

The 2022 papers read: "A Budget Support Reserve of £5m was established in 2021/22.

"This Reserve will be used to ‘smooth’ the impact of budget reduction measures over the life of the Medium Term Financial Plan.

"In 2022/23, an amount of £1.12m will be used to support the budget.

"An ‘Invest to Save’ Reserve of £5m was also established in 2021/2022.

"In 2022/23, it is estimated that £5.471m will be used to meet the collection fund for business rates deficit in 2021/22."

Cllr Slater hit back after Thursday night's meeting, saying: "They set a budget and then had to take £4.06 million out of reserves to balance it.

"That is not setting a budget.

"It is there in black and white in the papers.

"The council actually overspent by more than £4m.

"Once again this Labour administration have overspent my millions of pounds. If they go on like this there will be no reserves left in four years.

"Reserves are for emergencies and unforeseen circumstances not poor budgeting."

Cllr McGurk said in response: "The use of the reserves was baked in at the Finance Council in February 2022.

"I will not accept that the planned use of reserves was not included in the 2022 Finance Council.

"The fact Cllr Slater doesn't know that means he either did not read the report, or did not understand it.

"So as stated the councils budget (inclusive of these reserves, meant to be used to offset Covid) as set in 2022 overspent by £45,000.

"Planned use of reserves spent was less than budgeted for, and in no small part to the great work across the council on the backdrop of rising inflation, the Liz Truss administration, a war in Europe and recovery from Covid, where after 13 years of government failure the economics both nationally and locally are fragile at best."

Cllr McGurk added that the authority had an additional Minimum Working Balance of reserves of £6m specifically earmarked as a contingent sum to provide for unexpected and unforeseen circumstances.