THE leader of Somerset County Council is 'shirking reponsibility' for bringing the authority to the 'brink of bankruptcy', according to the opposition.   

Leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition at County Hall, Jane Lock, has hit out at Cllr David Fothergill, accusing the Conservative administration of adding to the council's financial woes as it struggles to deal with cuts in central government funding.

Cllr Fothergill has called the system for handing out cash to local authorities from cnetral government 'broken' after the council this week passed plans to implement cuts aimed at saving £13 million this year, rising to £15 million by 2019/20.

Cllr Lock said: "Somerset Council Leader David Fothergill is shirking responsibility for the vicious cuts to public services.

READ MORE: Millions in cuts approved by Somerset County Council

"He has complained that the Council had been ‘sadly abandoned’ by his party at national level, but that ignores the £114 million pounds that is missing from the county’s coffers because he and his cabal of Conservative councillors unilaterally decided to freeze Council Tax rises when there was no requirement to do so.

"Look around the country and you will see that Somerset was the first county to freeze Council Tax and the last one to drop the freeze. That’s six years that have bled this county dry."

Cllr Lock said the decision to freeze Council Tax in previous years had starved the county of income which could have helped in the current financial climate. 

"There is a direct line of responsibility between the Conservatives’ decision to freeze Council Tax and the crisis we now face," she added.

"If – instead of chasing votes – the Conservatives had done the sensible thing and allowed for an annual 1.9% rise in Council Tax as other councils did, they wouldn't be cutting vital services to the elderly, the young, the vulnerable and the least well off in our community now.

“But rather than admit that and apologise, Mr Fothergill chose to shed crocodile tears about having ‘sleepless nights’ and hide behind his national party.

"I trust that the voters of Somerset will see through this deception."

Cllr Lock also warned of further cuts in the future and demanded a full council meeting in a bid to come up with long-term plans to tackle the financial problems.

This week, Cllr Fothergill came under fire during a meeting of the council's Cabinet, where the cuts programme was approved - except for changes to funding for young carers.

After the meeting, he said: "This is not the biggest set of saving Somerset has faced. But it is absolutely the most difficult set of decisions we have had to consider," he said.

“The Government model for funding local authorities is broken.

"Rural councils like ours don't get the funding they need or deserve.

"I’ve taken every opportunity to lobby and fight to address this, but there has been no extra funding.

"That is hugely disappointing."

Taunton Deane MP Rebecca Pow has vowed to fight for fairer funding in Westminster, while Bridgwater and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger this week slammed the county council for poor financial management in the past.

Wells MP James Heappey has also called for changes to how funding is allocated to local authorities to be speeded up.