A west London council is poised to cut its budget by pounds 15m because of what it claims was financial mismanagement by the previous administration.

All Ealing's services could be affected.

Labour councillors blamed Tories for leaving the deficit for the next financial year, but an opposition spokesman denied the charge, accusing Labour of 'running scared'.

John Cudmore, the council leader, said there was no alternative but to find pounds 15m savings by April to bridge the gap between estimated expenditure and what the council expects to receive in Government grants. 'I am cross about this. It was just cynical manipulation by the Tories. We knew we would inherit a problem but we didn't know how much it would be - and it's huge.'

'We are going to have to find these cuts. Every department will be affected and I regret that many frontline services will suffer.'

He said he could only conclude that the Tories thought they were not going to win in the May elections and were 'quite happy for us to pick up the problems'.

However, Ken Kettle, Tory finance spokesman, said that far from leaving finances in disarray, his party had improved them, and cut council tax bills.

He claimed a deficit of pounds 5m that they inherited in 1990 had been turned into a reserve of pounds 8m over their four years in power and they anticipated an additional government grant of pounds 7m next year.

'Labour groups are not good at saving and they are running scared. The new members are terrified they will make a cock-up and are covering their tracks beforehand.'

The Labour group held an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the shortfall.