KIRKLEES Council is facing the worst financial crisis in its history, the new leader has warned.
Clr Mehboob Khan said yesterday there was a £44m gap in the budget.
Labour and the Lib Dems ousted the Conservatives last month to take control of Kirklees.
But Clr Khan said the Tories had left the council’s finances in a mess.
The Greenhead Labour man said: "After examining the council’s books, we were absolutely shocked to discover that we have inherited a £44m hole in the budget.
"The cupboard is completely bare.
"This is extremely worrying.
"Council officials have advised us that £44m of cuts or savings will be needed over the next three years to balance the books."
Clr Khan claimed the Conservatives had squandered a secure financial position.
He said: "In 2006 the Tories took charge of a council in a very healthy financial position and last year Kirklees received a £24m increase in government funding.
"Despite this the Tories still created the deepest financial crisis in the 35-year history of this council."
Kirklees deputy leader Clr Kath Pinnock warned residents to expect a tough time ahead.
The Cleckheaton Lib Dem said: "The council and our residents now face a deep crisis, which could have been avoided if the Conservatives had planned sensibly.
"The Tories owe local people an apology for their mistakes.
"We are now working to draw up a budget that will balance the budget by finding even more efficiency savings and we will try our best for a low council tax rise.
"I will be working hard to avoid cuts to services which will affect the neediest in our area."
But Clr Andrew Palfreeman, who was responsible for council finances when the Conservatives ran Kirklees, denied the claims.
The Birstall and Birkenshaw Conservative said: "They’re talking rubbish. There is no gap in funding and we left the council finances in a sound condition.
"We were planning for a 3% council tax rise for 2009/10 and a freeze on increases for pensioners."
Clr Palfreeman defended his party’s record.
He said: "In our time running the council we protected essential services and taken out the waste which had built up when Labour and then the Lib Dems ran Kirklees."
The budget and council tax rate for 2009/10 will be decided at a special council meeting on February 25.