COUNTY councils in England could be facing a funding black hole of £50 billion over the next six years – with some authorities warning they will have to resort to providing the “bare minimum” if no extra money is made available.

Analysis by the County Councils Network (CCN) – which represents large often rural authorities including Worcestershire County Council – found that continuing to increase council tax by the maximum year-on-year, using up reserves and making services more efficient would not be “anywhere near enough” to plug the gap.

The county council raised council tax by almost four per cent this year – which it said was in reaction to the rising cost of social care – made cuts and used part of its reserves to plug a £23 million gap in funding.

Paul Carter, chairman of CCN, said county councils were the “most exposed” and the least able to address financial pressures.

Mr Carter said local government was at the “limit of its elasticity.”

He added: “If government does not provide additional funding for councils over the medium term, many local authorities will resort to providing the bare minimum, with many vital services all but disappearing, particularly preventative services.

“Even these draconian cuts won’t be enough for many well-run councils to balance the books and it will leave our finances in disarray with many of us struggling to deliver even the basic level of local services.”

The county council receives money from government grants and money it raises locally through council tax and charges.

The county council also announced in 2017 it would be required to find savings of more than £60 million in the next three years on top of the £100 million that had been cut since 2011.

The council tax increase for this year included one per cent of ring-fenced money to pay for adult social care.

At the time, Councillor Simon Geraghty, leader of the county council, said bosses at County Hall were still waiting for confirmation of future funding for adult social care in the government’s long-awaited green paper.

Cllr Geraghty said the council was having to “re-prioritise” its resources to meet need.

The government is currently reviewing council funding – called the ‘fair funding review’ – which is due to be rolled out early next year.

The county council declined to comment on the CCN report.