By politics.co.uk staff
Liberal Democrat councillors have hit out at the government's spending cuts plans, in a move widening the gap with the party's ministers yet again.
Over 90 councillors including 18 local authority chiefs attacked the rapid pace of funding reductions for councils in a letter to the Times.
"Rather than assist the country's recovery by making savings to the public in a way that can protect local economies and the front line, the cuts are structured in such a way that they will do the opposite," the councillors wrote.
Communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles was criticised for his attitude towards local authorities.
The letter said he should "facilitate necessary savings while promoting the advance of localism" but added that "Eric Pickles has felt it better to shake a stick at councillors than work with us".
Lib Dem communities minister Andrew Stunell has attempted to bridge the gap, warning against "falling out between ourselves".
But the news, coming hot on the heels of the Lib Dems' Treasury spokesperson in the Lords, will alarm Nick Clegg and those backing a stable coalition.
Shadow communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles said Lib Dem councillors were still "complicit" in the coalition's spending cut decisions.
"This letter is too little, too late and comes the day after Liberal Democrat MPs joined their Tory colleagues in voting for a deeply unfair local government settlement," she said.
"They could have voiced their opposition before yesterday's crucial vote but chose to remain silent.
"As a result, Surestart centres, libraries, bin collections and many other local services are under threat of cut backs or closure because the Tory-led government has chosen to hit councils with cuts that are frontloaded into the first year rather than spread out over four years."