LABOUR councillors have blasted Bromsgrove Conservatives' claims they have 'balanced the books' with the 2018/19 budget, insisting the council is actually 'heading for a financial disaster'.

A Medium Term Financial Plan, providing the framework for the district council's spending decisions for the next four years, was passed by two votes last Wednesday night.

The budget will see a 2.99 per cent rise in residents' council tax - equivalent to £6.29 each year for band D properties - to cover the authority's outgoing costs for the next year.

Council leader Geoff Denaro said: "The council has passed a balanced budget that maintains all of the services that are important to our residents.

"We've done this by making your money go further, by shrinking our costs, and becoming more efficient, and by sharing services and buildings with Redditch, the county council, and the government.

"Of course we all recognise the future is more challenging than ever, as we approach a decade of having reduced spending every year.

"But the choices we have made have protected and continue to help protect our local services – and in many cases have improved them.

"Our focus continues to be on delivering services, while reducing costs and finding innovative new ways to generate income, such as gaining more revenue from our assets.”

But leader of the opposition Labour group Luke Mallet described the statement, which estimates a £2million shortfall by 2021/22, as a 'budget for bankruptcy and borrowing'.

He said: "The numbers clearly don't stack up beyond the coming year, and the council is heading for a financial disaster.

"This is a budget that does nothing for Bromsgrove aside pushing the council further into debt.

"There are now very real questions as to whether Bromsgrove Council will survive the next few years.

"It is a council in crisis."

Cllr Mallet also criticised the council for not factoring the cost of a new sports hall into the budget.

But cabinet member for finance Cllr Brian Cooper insisted the council does 'have a plan for Bromsgrove', adding: "Whatever happens, and whatever financial challenges we are facing as a council, we must do our utmost to prevent these financial pressures being passed on to residents.

"That’s why we are constantly reviewing our costs and looking for innovative income streams to cope with the situation."