A COUNCIL has come under fire for holding £110million in its reserves.

Lancashire County Council's balance is the seventh highest in the country. Essex council is top at £200million.

The county council is facing making thousands of staff redundant as it has to save £186million over the next three years.

But Communities Secretary Eric Pickles urged councils to raid their 'piggy banks' to ease the impact of cuts.

Council chiefs said reserves could be used in the short term, but stressed it was no surprise the reserve was so high given that it was one of the biggest councils in the country.

Figures weren't provided for other East Lancashire councils.

Across the country a total of £10billion is held in councils' reserves.

Mr Pickles said local people would be shocked at the scale of the unused money - although some has to be set aside by law for specific purposes.

"Good financial planning is about putting a little extra away when the sun is shining so you have some cover during the rainy days," he said.

"But building up reserves isn't simply about turning town hall vaults into Fort Knox. These untapped funds exist to ensure councils can respond to unexpected situations like the pressing need to tackle the nation's unprecedented level of debt.

"I'm sure many residents would be shocked to find local authorities still have over £10 billion in their piggy banks when they are hearing weekly scare stories of service and job cuts.

"Just like any household facing challenging times, all good councils should be considering the merits of temporarily dipping into the money they have set aside."

Phil Halsall, deputy chief executive of Lancashire County Council, said they were already implementing Mr Pickles' ideas.

He said: "We've drawn funding from the county council's reserves to fund local services in each of the last two years and will be proposing to do so again next year."