COUNCILS across the country are facing an unprecedented squeeze on their budgets as part of the Government’s austerity drive to cut the national deficit.

In October 2010, the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition announced it was cutting funding for local council budgets by 28 per cent over the next four years.

Southampton council finance boss councillor Simon Letts told the Daily Echo the unitary authority was facing a “perfect storm” that had put it in the “premier league” of councils hit by cuts.

The council spends around £500m a year including schools and benefits. The net annual budget once these are stripped out is around £190m.

Cllr Letts said Government funding was being slashed more than thought and costs were going up due to inflation and greater demands on council services while reserves were down to minimum a of £5m.

He said the council has taken “more than its fair share of austerity cuts”, had done all it could to reorganise and become leaner, and was now being “compelled” to make harsh cuts.

He said council finance officers were bracing themselves for a grant reduction of £9.2m next year compared to the £0.7m set out two years ago.

“This is a clear betrayal of this council and our city by the Tory led Government,” he said.

“I am aware that members of the previous administration continue to lobby Government on Southampton’s behalf and are in private at least standing up for Southampton. I publically thank them for this.”

Cllr Letts said the announcement of next year’s Government funding had been put back to December 24 which he called a “clear case of ‘a good day to bury bad news’.”