COUNTY council bosses have come under fire for increasing debt levels to a “staggering” amount as part of sweeping changes to the budget.

Yesterday, Lancashire County Council’s new Conservative leadership approved plans to tear up the previous spending plan prepared by the ousted Labour group.

The move will see extra cash made available this year for services including highways, vulnerable children and care homes, paid for by a £10million loan.

And the cabinet also agreed to borrow £39million over the next three years to pay for its capital programme – which includes spending on roads and new school buildings.

This is a change of policy from the Labour years when the day-to-day revenue budget had been used.

Speaking at yesterday’s cabinet meeting, Coun Jennifer Mein, leader of the opposition Labour group, slammed the increase in borrowing and criticised the Tories’ election pledge to freeze council tax next year.

She said: “I am absolutely staggered at the amount of borrowing you are prop-osing to make.

“But I do understand why you are doing this because you have bribed people with the council tax freeze.”

Council leader Geoff Driver hit back, say-ing: “When pol-itical parties put forward a manifes-to, you are not bribing people, you are telling them what you will do if you get control – which is what we are doing.”

Coun Driver said the increase in borrowing would bring Lancashire into line with other authorities in the way it treats capital and revenue budgets.

Yesterday’s meeting came after it was revealed at least £80million will have to be cut from the council’s budgets in the next five years.

Each department has been told to investigate the impact of a 10per cent budget cut as the Tories look to find £16million by February to pay for the council tax freeze.