In a frank letter to the prime minister, chancellor and secretary of state, Hampshire County Council’s Conservative leader says unless it gets more money, the authority faces bankruptcy.

In the joint letter with Kent County Council, Cllr Rob Humby said: “We face budget deficits of a scale that has never been seen before. Our budgets are now at breaking point. We can’t sit by and sleepwalk into a financial disaster.

“Even with drastic service cuts we won’t be able to close future budget gaps, and on current forecasts have no option but to consider formal talks with our auditors, the Department for Levelling Up and Communities, and the Treasury over the coming months.”

The letter outlines the need for immediate government help and a clear plan for long-term financial sustainability. Without them, the council could be filing for bankruptcy in the next year or so, Cllr Humby added.

Among other issues, he blames 12 years of national austerity and cuts by successive Conservative governments that have cut council funding to the bone.

He also says there is little or no freedom to generate revenue, and that growing inflation, government restrictions on raising council tax, Covid and the Ukraine war are also eroding council income.

And although East Hampshire District Council appears to be safe financially, its Tory leader Cllr Richard Millard recently warned “local government could be put into crisis” unless more money is found.