THE Labour and Liberal Democrat leadership running Cumbria County Council have blamed the Government for a council tax rise in April.

But opposition Conservatives accused the administration of "passing the buck" and "painting the bleakest picture possible" to attack the Government.

Nearly 80 county councillors met in Kendal on Thursday and voted through the 2019-20 budget and council tax rise, with 42 in favour and 34 against.

Bills will increase 3.99 per cent this year, or 68p a week extra for Band A homeowners, and £1.02 a week extra for those in Band D properties.

The rise involves a 1.99 per cent increase for county council services plus an extra two per cent for adult social care.

Cllr Peter Thornton, the Liberal Democrat cabinet member for finance, said it was the council's ninth year of Government grant reductions.

However, the council had stopped short of hiking bills by the maximum allowed, he said.

Central Government grants to the authority had fallen from £148 million in 2011 to just £17.8 million in 2019-20, the meeting heard.

"That's a reduction of over £130 million at a time of ever-rising demand for our services; demand caused by austerity," said Cllr Thornton.

"This council has so far saved a staggering £249 million and there's potentially another £47 million to save over the next three years."

Cllr James Airey, for the Conservative group, compared the coalition to the "Trotter brothers" and said they were "driving the Reliant Robin to the edge of the cliff".

Cllr Airey said: "We have a budget based on passing the buck. If you want to see a Conservative budget, you should step aside and let us run the county's finances - give the good people of Cumbria what they asked for and what 44 per cent of them voted for - a Conservative-led administration."

Council leader Stewart Young, who also heads the Labour group, said the opposition should have tabled an alternative budget but had not.

He said: "The truth is the members opposite know that if they tried to set a balanced budget they wouldn't be able to deliver the things they go round telling the public of Cumbria that they could - that's the reality."

Cllr Young said it was "political choice" why schools were cutting back on teachers and essential repairs, toilets and youth clubs had closed, libraries were being run by volunteers and councils were reducing grass cutting.

The meeting heard that the council funds services to the tune of £843 million every year or £2.3 million every day.

That included caring for 8,000 vulnerable and elderly adults, nearly 700 at-risk children, maintaining 4,500 miles of highways and cleaning 140,000 gulleys and being responsible for 1,775 bridges.

The public was consulted on the budget proposals with 208 responses received, with a majority in favour of the council tax increase, the meeting heard.

The budget included £196 million of spending on capital projects.