ISSUES with a Cumbrian council's finances will be discussed in an extraordinary meeting in the new year.

Copeland Borough Council has recently been the subject of a sobering report from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance Accountants which reveals the "significant financial risk" ahead if urgent action is not taken to balance the books.

The report, commissioned by the UK Government warns that due to the financial challenges experienced in recent years, Copeland Council could be heading for a Section 141 notice, if its recommendations are not followed.

A section 141 notice is the equivalent of bankruptcy for Local Authorities, restricting spending to statutory services. Minister of State for Equalities and Levelling-Up Communities Kemi Badenoch MP has written to the council asking for a response to the report, setting out their plan of action and financial support needed.

An application submitted by Copeland Labour this week called for an extraordinary meeting of the council to discuss the precarious financial situation with auditor Grant Thornton.

But Mayor of Copeland Mike Starkie said that the council's Conservative leadership has already called for one.

"They missed the boat it's already been done. We've got to respond to Kemi Badenoch within 30 days. It's more than 30 days to the next meeting.

"By calling the meeting we can get the response sent off and the capitalisation in place, prior to the budget-setting meeting."

Copeland Labour are keen to know more about the council's financial situation and if it is possible to avoid a Section 141 notice.

The mayor has refuted claims in the report that the UK Government could step in and limit the council's expenditure in this way.

Mr Starkie chalks up the council's financial challenges to a hefty business rates claim from Sellafield Limited in 2015, a devastating cyber attack in 2017 and the previous administration which he says left a "£13 million black hole."

He said: "There's nothing in the report I haven't been saying for quite a number of years. Six years ago the finances were in ruins, we had a financial black hole."

Mr Starkie has welcomed the report as evidence to support requests to the Government for financial support.

But he said: "There is absolutely no prospect of us going into a Section 141 notice, there's no prospect of us becoming bankrupt."

Former Labour Parliamentary candidate for Copeland Tony Lywood said: "It's no good him blaming the previous administration which is now six years ago, he keeps harping on about this mythical black hole.

"I wasn't in that administration but even if it was partially true, he had six years to sort that out."

He said that the CIPFA report is "based on recent history not past history."

Mr Starkie responded: "The current administration has got £13 million less a year to spend but we've cut no services whatsoever.

"Why in six years in six budgets have they not made a single amendment to any of those budgets? They're trying to re-write history."