TORY claims to have produced balanced budgets for Dorset Council since it was created have been labelled ‘disingenuous.’

Opposition party financial experts say that, in most if not all years, the position has only been achieved by taking millions of pounds from reserve funds.

Weymouth GP Cllr Jon Orrell warned that fancy words about ‘re-allocations’ or ‘transformation spending’ usually amounted to cuts in services.

“There are human casualties from budget sheets,” he said – pointing out that in the UK children were now shorter than their European counterparts and life expectancy in both men and women, after a century of improvement, was now going down; both signs, he said of under-investment in public spending.

He said that even if budgets were not directly cut the level of need which people had to achieve to qualify to receive services was often increased so that fewer were eligible.

“We should be aware that there are implications of this relentless cutting. We might dress it up in fancy terms … but year after year we ask for Dorset to be properly funded and it doesn’t happen,” he said.

Council and Tory group leader Cllr Spencer Flower said that, despite the criticism, many other local councils would like to be in the position he was – achieving savings while at the same time protecting services.

“We are in a strong position and we’ll sustain that by challenging ourselves to be as efficient as we can to maintain services,” he said.

Weymouth independent councillor David Gray told a scrutiny meeting that although he has no major objections to using savings to meet day to days council costs it was "disingenuous and misleading to council taxpayers" to claim this amounted to a balanced budget.

He said that while the ruling party may not have set out to use money kept for unforeseen emergencies at the start of each financial year - they almost always had to dip into those funds by the end of the 12-months because spending had out-run what they planned.

The ruling administration is currently proposing an increase of just under 5per cent in council tax from April with a similar hike in most fees and charges, while at the same time estimating that inflation in the year will 3.2per cent.

Green Party Weymouth councillor Brian Heatley said that, for the first time, the Tory administration is setting out at the start of the financial year to earmark £12million of reserve funds to support spending plans. coupled with an agreement already in place to switch £2m of capital funds to revenue spending, with the potential for another £3m to also be used.

He said that while the council remained rich in the assets it owns, which could be sold, the treasure chest would not last forever. The council’s estate includes buildings, farms, industrial estates and many of the Weymouth seafront hotels.

Cllr Heatley points out that millions of pounds of ‘savings’ were not likely to be identified, if at all, until the autumn, six months after a new council is elected in May.

Lib Dem group leader Nick Ireland said that in the coming year the Conservative group are hoping to achieve £30million in overall ‘savings’, the biggest figure ever identified by the administration, which he described as “a bit of a stretch” when budgets are already severely strained.

Another Lib Dem, Gill Taylor from Weymouth, said that the Conservative claims of a balanced budget had partially been achieved by having one of the highest council taxes in the country.

She said that position was not what local people wanted when food inflation was running at 27per cent over two years and a third of adults were struggling to pay their mortgages or rents.

“I am still not content with the use of reserves because we have absolutely no detail on it,” she said.