CABINET bosses at Dorset County Council have been given a “red alert” on projects that are not on track to deliver vital savings as the council bids to save £55million over three years.

The council has about 160 projects under way in its Meeting Future Challenges Programme to deliver the millions of pounds of savings needed to balance the books following Chancellor George Osborne’s slashing of local government budgets.

But while a third of the council’s savings projects are complete, cabinet members yesterday were presented with a report that highlighted in red the slipping progress of key projects, including controversial plans to close 20 libraries and to withdraw funding for school crossing patrols.

Cllr Spencer Flower, the cabinet member for resources, told the Daily Echo that keeping pace with savings targets was essential to avoid the need for greater cuts in the future.

“I have always said that the key thing isn’t just the efficiencies. It’s the pace with which you do it. If you don’t get the pace of it right, and take too long over it, the pain will be worse,” he said.

The council hoped to realise savings of £417,300 in the current financial year by “reconfiguring” the library service.

But a public outcry over plans to close 20 libraries if local groups fail to accept an offer of “community take over” has forced the council to hold a public consultation, which will not end until June 13.

A massive project to realise savings of nearly £3.3m from the highways budget by 2013/14 was also coded red in a report to cabinet members.

The complex savings package involves delivering internal efficiencies and boosting external income from the council’s Dorset Works Organisation highway maintenance team and is off target.

Projects to trim £1.4m from the budget for transport for vulnerable adults and children, and to boost income from council managed countryside sites by £106,000, were also off target, the report said.

Elsewhere in the report, Paul Kent, the council’s chief finance officer, warned that by reducing proposals for unpaid leave in 2012 and 2013 from 12 to six days following talks with unions, the council would save £2.2m rather than £4.3m.