COUNCIL bosses have been praised for balancing the books despite having to find millions of pounds of savings.

The 2018-19 financial year ends on March 31 and a cabinet meeting of Cumbria County Council heard that the authority would finish in the black.

The council expects to be £24,000 over budget which it called a “break even” position against £800m of spending on services.

Its general reserves – or its rainy day money – will also rise to £15m to provide a financial cushion against future crises in the years ahead.

Peter Thornton, the cabinet member for finance, told a meeting in Kendal that it had benefitted significantly from the renegotiation of a contract which had netted the authority an unexpected £7m windfall.

That sum had helped offset some of the soaring financial costs the council faced, he said, not least in the under-pressure childrens services which had been running a £1m-a-month overspend.

Mr Thornton told the meeting: “Setting the budget is one thing but delivering it is quite another. We are reporting a net pressure of £24,000 which is virtually a break-even position considering our total spend of over £800m. In setting the 2018/19 budget, savings of almost £39m pounds were agreed by council across a whole range of services. So this is against the background of £39m in savings.”

“To break even on our budget while increasing our general fund balance is a huge achievement and I’d like to thank both our finance team and all the other officers who have contributed towards this,” said Mr Thornton, a Liberal Democrat.

Council leader Stewart Young said that when the budget was set, he was “apprehensive” because of soaring financial pressures the council faced in paying for services outside its control.

“We are in the ninth year of austerity, as it’s called, or Government cuts, as I prefer to call it, and it gets harder every year,” said the Labour councillor for Upperby in Carlisle.

“To be able to report that we are predicting to be balanced for 2018-19 and that we will achieve an increase in our general reserves is a credit to everybody.”