RESIDENTS are being urged to have their say on which public services should be slashed across Cumbria as county leaders grapple with the deepest budget cuts in decades.

A public consultation was launched by Cumbria County Council bosses at a cabinet meeting yesterday as the authority looks to slice £80 million from its spending before 2019.

CCC leader Councillor Stewart Young said no department can be spared the knife - before admitting libraries and the gritting of non-priority roads are among the services under threat.

This is in addition to the loss of hundreds of public sector jobs as the council ‘streamlines’ its departments, the closure of five on call fire stations and a planned council tax increase of two per cent for 2016/17.

Nursing homes are also set to be used as a last resort in a bid to reduce expenditure while a risk-based approach could be adopted in the way the authority manages its money to minimise the cost of borrowing.

Describing the reduction in government grant as ‘draconian’, Cllr Young told the Evening Mail: “We are being forced into a corner.

“The chancellor is going beyond just balancing his books, he is creating a surplus and ordinary people in Cumbria are having to pay for what will be a reduction in corporation tax for some of the largest businesses in the world.

“We are moving towards becoming an authority that can offer only statutory services.

“Libraries are particularly contentious, because the choice is not between a public library or a community run library, in some cases it’s between a community run library or no library at all.

“This is why we would urge people to take part in the consultation.”

Cllr Young added: “Having to make these incredibly difficult decisions are not why most of us stood for this role.”

CCC will make a total of £37 million of cuts next year.

A further £21 million is required from the 2017/18 year and £22 million from the year after - though these savings are yet to be identified by the council’s finance experts.

This is in addition to savings of £153 million already secured since the beginning of the local government austerity period in 2011.

Speaking at the cabinet meeting, at County Hall in Kendal, CCC chief executive Diane Wood said: “The authority simply cannot continue to provide services as it has done in the past.

“We need to be honest with the people of Cumbria and say the county council cannot stay the same.

“We would ask that the public provide us with their views.”

But Conservative opposition leader Cllr James Airey was sharply critical of the consultation document that he claimed treated the public as if they were ‘stupid’.

“It’s a complete and utter waste of time,” he said.

“Huge amounts of cuts have to be made but nothing is outlined in this paper.

“In real terms, this is a dishonest document. The council will have an idea on where these savings are going to come from but they don’t say.

“They are treating people as if they are stupid, when they are not.”

The public consultation will run until January 22.

The draft budget document setting out where the cuts are to be made is then due to be adopted by the full council in February before being implemented from April.