THE leader of Somerset County Council has been labelled "over-confident" after announcing the end to austerity at County Hall and plans to put away cash for a rainy day.

Cllr David Fothergill (Conservative) has hailed a "remarkable" financial turnaround ahead of yesterday's council meeting to discuss a three-year financial strategy.

He said: "We no longer have a financial crisis and are on our way to the financial stability all local authorities are striving for.

"To be looking to the next financial year without the shadow of additional savings is truly remarkable."

Cllr Fothergill said the authority forecasts a balanced budget can be set for the year from April without any further cuts or reductions in frontline services.

There are also plans to increase reserves and to invest in improvements to adults' and children's services.

Cllr Fothergill added: "The pressure on local authority finances has been huge in recent years and, like many councils, we have been through some very tough times.

"This turnaround reflects the hard work of our staff, partners and communities.

"But we must be cautious. Too much of this authority's funding is uncertain and we need to strengthen reserves and make measured investment to improve lives."

Cllr Liz Leyshon (LibDem), opposition spokeswoman for resources, said Cllr Fothergill's assessment of the county's financial future is "over-confident".

She added: "While we all look forward to a year without destructive cuts to frontline services, we must acknowledge that SCC’s improvement is from a very low base.

"Much of the council’s ongoing financial vulnerability lies in the amount of one-off funding and short-term gains.

"An ageing demographic in the county combined with a low tax base, means that the aspirations of the county will always be limited, while the demand for services grows.

"Although the Conservative-run council can communicate with the five Conservative MPs for Somerset, none of them know yet what impact Brexit and the transition year will have on local authorities, and how the new Government will cope with delivering massive-scale promises in the Midlands and North of England.

"One has to hope that Ministers will not forget the South West, particularly Somerset, as they grapple with their enormous responsibility to deliver Brexit and regenerate the entire country."

Meanwhile, Somerset has been placed in the top ten most improved local authorities in the annual Impower table, credited with a higher value for money rating and positive trajectory.