COUNCIL leader Cllr Terry O’Neill has fired a parting shot at the Government days before stepping down from the post.

Deputy leader Cllr Russ Bowden will officially take over from Cllr O’Neill during next Monday’s full council meeting.

During Monday’s executive board meeting, amid budget pressures facing the authority, Cllr O’Neill labelled the situation as ‘absolutely ridiculous’.

He said: “It is the Government penalising our most vulnerable people all of the time.

“They particularly hate the public sector and laud over the private sector for some reason, I don’t know why.

“Our staff are working tirelessly day in, day out to try and stretch budgets and to make sure our communities are safe.

“It is absolutely ridiculous, as I say.

“It is beyond belief what is going on with this Government, it really is.”

Cllr Dan Price, executive board member for culture and partnerships, also put his views forward during the meeting – and dismissed Prime Minister Theresa May’s claim that austerity is over.

He said the authority’s revenue budget is under ‘an awful lot of stresses because of external factors’.

“Austerity is clearly not dead, as the Prime Minister told us,” he added.

“But I am emboldened by the work that this administration has done on the capital side to invest in services during austerity.

“I do believe, even during this period of austerity, that we are making a real difference through our ambitious capital programme and I thank the officers and members.”