Knowsley Council’s leaders have hailed a “minor miracle” as they forecast delivering a balanced budget for this year.

At a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Knowsley’s finance chief Cllr Jayne Aston said the local authority expected to be £756,000 under budget at the end of the financial year.

Cllr Aston told fellow cabinet members: “You will be more than aware of the challenges that Knowsley has faced since 2010 - the £100million cuts, and we are the hardest hit council in the country - which makes the report we are considering tonight all the more impressive.”

She added: “It’s been an awful lot of hard work over the last 10 years.

Council leader Graham Morgan (right) said "some very hard decisions" had been made to keep the budget in check.

“We are not out of the woods yet, but it is a minor miracle to find ourselves in such a good financial position.”

However, while the council’s overall budget is forecast to be in surplus, spending on council services is expected to be £651,000 over budget, thanks mainly to increasing pressures on children’s social care and education.

The children’s social care budget is forecast to be £838,000 over budget, while transport costs in education have driven that department’s deficit to £202,000.

But a £1.4million grant from the government - compensation for business rate relief - means that the council is able to cover its deficit this year and return a balanced budget.

Next year, additional funding for social care and changes to pension contributions mean the council expects to be £3.6million in surplus, although this will include a potential 4% rise in council tax.

However, Cllr Aston said, “continued financial uncertainty” made it difficult to plan the council’s finances beyond 2021.

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Knowsley’s leader, Cllr Graham Morgan , said: “There has been some very hard decisions that have been made over the last few years.

“£100million of our budget has been slashed. Just imagine where we would be if we had a level playing field with our funding.”

Cllr Morgan also congratulated council staff for their “dedicated work” in delivering the balanced budget.