A SECOND Tory-run council is preparing to cut back services to the bare legal minimum to cope with a cash shortfall that could leave it bankrupt within three years.

East Sussex County Council has followed in the footsteps of Northamptonshire County Council.

Keith Glazier, leader of the Conservative-controlled council, said: “We are nearing the end of what we can achieve in the current way.

“We need to make more savings over the next three years and that could mean up to £46 million of additional cuts.

“The scale of what we have done to date and the changes ahead mean we have to take a new approach.”

According to council reports, the reduced “core offer” will “fulfil statutory duties, offer support to those most in need, preserve some level of early help and prevention and assist with the economic development of the county”.

David Tutt, leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat Group, said: We are in a real mess and the only solution we’ve got to it is to cut our services and put the begging bowl out to government.

“For me, it can be summed up like that and don’t take any pleasure in saying it.

“You talk about it being a report for the future in the next three years. I would seriously question if we have got three years.

“We have just seen a raft of cuts that were voted on by your group in the February budget, the detail of which has been rolling out in recent months and weeks.”

Cllr Tutt also challenged the Conservative group to come up with an “attention-grabbing strategy” such as a mass resignation, referring to Surrey County Council’s threat to hold a local referendum on raising council tax rates by 15 per cent Cllr Colin Swansborough, Liberal Democrat councillor for Hampden Park. said: “We are looking at the bottom of the well.

“We are going to finish up struggling to meet our statutory obligations.

“Watching you go to lobby the Government is a bit like that scene in Oliver Twist, where Oliver goes up to the beadle and asks ‘please may I have some more.’ “You are about as effective as Oliver because you don’t come back with anything.

“It’s because you don’t fight for the people of East Sussex.”

Carl Maynard, the council’s lead member for adult social care and health, said: “We need to be honest with the public.

“Alarmist political nonsense is not something that helps this debate.”