HEREFORDSHIRE Council is staking £11 million on a "risky" scheme so cash for key frontline services won't be slashed.

Council leader councillor Roger Phillips told members that the Herefordshire Connects programme - which has support services heavily reliant on technology - was both a financial and business risk, but one worth taking if the expected £11.5 million in savings could be found over the next three years.

Coun Phillips told members meeting to set the county's council tax for the coming year that the only alternative to Herefordshire Connects was the kind of multi-million pound cuts to frontline services faced by neighbouring authorities in Worcestershire and Powys.

The council was banking on savings made over the medium term to get key services through tough times ahead, said Coun Phillips.

Herefordshire Connects was at the core of a budget for 2007/2008 that got unanimous support from the council on Friday.

Members also backed a 3.8% council tax rise, which adds around £40 to the average bill - without parish, police and fire service precepts.

But the support came with some reservations.

Opposition leader councillor Terry James told the meeting he had doubts about Herefordshire Connects delivering its savings on time.

Members heard that most of the £4 million found through efficiency savings so far would be invested in adult social care, which is on course for another near £1 million overspend, with no let-up in increasing demand.

A steady build-up of reserves also puts the council in a better financial position than its neighbours as the growth in public spending started to slow down - in line with Whitehall's proposed public service reforms.

Members heard the council was working with a revenue budget of £122 million this year. The bulk of that - £64 million - is earmarked for a capital programme with projects ranging from new schools and libraries to the upgrade of Hereford Crematorium.

Another £27 million was being spent on children's services this year, with children in care and home-to-school transport accounting for a combined £12 million of that.

The schools budget is set separately by central government and initial indications have nearly £82 million coming the county's way, which is about £3,522 per pupil.

Councillors heard that sum made Herefordshire schools the third worst funded per pupil in the country.