Cash-strapped councils are “raiding their rainy day funds” to cope with growing demand on social services, the public spending watchdog has said.

Government funding for local authorities has fallen by an estimated 50% since April 2011, heaping added pressure on strained finances and forcing councils in England to cut back on repairing roads, refuse collections and libraries, according to the National Audit Office (NAO) root-and-branch examination of town hall accounts.

It found authorities’ financial positions have “worsened markedly”, particularly for those councils which have social services departments, with several authorities struggling to balance their books and diving into their reserve funds – with 66.2% of local authorities with social care responsibilities dipping into their financial reserves in 2016-17.

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The number of pothole-related callouts received by the RAC each day has more than doubled this week.

The huge increase has come in the wake of the wintry weather caused by the ‘Beast from the East’ and Storm Emma.

Between February 1 and March 3 this year, the breakdown service received an average of 104 callouts a day from stricken motorists whose cars had suffered damage because of poorly maintained roads.

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Counter-terror police are working to unravel what is now feared to be a sophisticated chemical weapon plot targeting a Russian spy and his daughter.

A nerve agent is believed to have been used to critically injure Sergei Skripal, 66, and 33-year-old Yulia in Salisbury, Wiltshire, on Sunday.

One of the first police officers to arrive at the bench where the pair were slumped is also seriously ill in hospital.

It remains unclear who is responsible for poisoning the pair, but the attack has stoked tensions between Britain and Russia amid suspicions of state responsibility.

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