COUNTY council chiefs have been labelled a “disgrace” by Wyre Forest politicians for hiding the poor state of the authority’s from opposition members.

An independent report by Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) said Worcestershire County Council had been ‘overly optimistic’ regarding its savings while adding it had used up 47 per cent of its reserves.

The report, commissioned by the Tory-led authority at a cost of £29,000, also said it was showing similar signs of financial distress to crisis-hit Northamptonshire County Council and warned urgent action was needed.

The issue came to light following a probe into council finances by the Bureau of Investigative Reporting.

A council spokesman said the report has been used to review its finances and shape its budget planning.

But Liberal Democrat Councillor Fran Oborski said warnings about the bleak financial situation were dismissed as “unnecessarily pessimistic”.

And Wyre Forest Labour’s Stephen Brown added the issue highlighted the problems with Cabinet-led council models.

Councillor Oborski said: “At the February 2018 budget meeting, the 2017 group of Liberal Democrat and Green councillors moved that council tax should be increased by a further one per cent and warned that Worcestershire faced a ‘financial black hole’.

“The Conservative finance lead assured me that I was unnecessarily pessimistic and no addition rise in council tax would be needed this year.

“It gives me no satisfaction what so ever to find that our predictions were entirely accurate.

“The decision to prevent opposition councillors from knowing that a report from CIPFA has identified Worcestershire County Council as the fifth county council whose finances are showing similar signs of financial distress to Tory controlled Northamptonshire bankrupt is a disgrace, whilst the report itself brings into doubt the competency of the leadership of Worcestershire County Council.

“The Leader of WCC should convene an urgent meeting of the full Council with this one item as the sole agenda and explain to the council what steps the administration will take to solve the financial crisis which the authority faces.”

Mr Brown said: “There is simply insufficient Government funding to provide what’s required, and the Tory County Council, which is wedded to austerity and doesn’t criticise it, has been living in a fantasy land thinking it can fit a quart into a pint pot.

“Further, it demonstrates why the Cabinet model does not best serve the community that elects these politicians. It puts power in the hands of the few that creates an insular and authoritarian environment without challenge.

“It seeks to bury bad news rather than dealing with the issues. The myth that the Tories can be trusted to run the council and its finances is well and truly busted.

“The chickens are coming home to roost and significant efforts now need to be made to prevent Worcestershire becoming the next Northamptonshire.”

A spokesman for Worcestershire County Council said: "The review was requested to inform our budget planning. Feedback was received in a presentation to an internal meeting of Cabinet and Strategic Leadership Team.

“The approach taken by the Council was in line with the CIPFA advice and also helped us to shape how we moved forward with our medium term financial plan.

“We listened to the professional advice from CIPFA and increased our assumptions around Council Tax rates.

“The emerging financial pressures during 2017/18 with regard to children's and adult social care were reviewed in detail and this led to investments of £10.5million into children's social care and £7.8 million into adult social care for 2018/19.

“The review also supported a refresh of our transformation plans and longer term investment into children's services, both of which were included in the medium term financial plan.

“Despite the budgetary pressures, we are in a robust financial position and a balanced budget for 2018/19 was approved by councillors in February 2018."