THE city council must face up to unpopular and difficult cuts or faces “going bust within two years”.

The stark warning by children, young people and skills committee chairman Tom Bewick comes as he unveiled details of looming budget cuts to children's services in an exclusive interview with The Argus.

The Labour councillor warned that the city needed to be on a “wartime footing” to cope with the drastic changes to public services set to be enacted over the next four years to meet a £68 million shortfall.

The controversial plans to make 30 per cent budget savings of £13.5 million from children’s services in the next four years are:

-Children centres to be cut from 12 to seven

-Reducing the number of council-run special needs schools from six to three

- Three council run nurseries to be transferred to private or voluntary sector

- The end of the council-run youth service

- Cutting funding for the free Playbus with trained children's playworkers

Coun Bewick, a former government advisor, blamed “immoral” cuts from a Conservative government and a “head in the sand” approach from the previous Green administration for the financial black hole the council now found itself in.

He said: “We are staring over the precipice, seeing a city municipality that will go bust in the next two years if we don’t take quite aggressive action on this budget gap.

“In all my years in business and running large public sector organisations, I have never seen a set of accounts in such a poor state as we are facing.

“I have been chased by Hezbollah in Lebanon and I have had bombs go off near to me in Afghanistan [working as an advisor], but I have never lost so much sleep than in the past few weeks contemplating these cuts to our children’s services.”

Highlighting the desperate measures council officers are having to consider to cut costs, Coun Bewick told The Argus he ruled out a proposal to stop funding lollipop men and women outside schools.

The pressure is being exacerbated by higher pressures on services it is legally obliged to provide including safeguarding children.

Along with adult services, the pair are the sole contributing departments to the council’s projected £7 million overspend for this year.

Coun Bewick said all departments would have to share the pain and said he would be calling on new chief executive Geoff Raw to find savings in senior and middle management.

He also told The Argus about innovations and reforms he was looking to bring in including establishing a trust to provide youth services, an uber taxi service for disabled school pupils and a trust fund for children in council care.