Hertfordshire County Council has been criticised for having to return around £5million of decarbonisation grant funding to central government, after failing to spend it within an allotted timeframe.

Herts Liberal Democrats said the Conservative-controlled county council revealed at a Resources and Performance Cabinet Panel meeting earlier this month that "nearly £5m of grant funding will be handed back to the government as the deadline for spending the grant passed on June 30".

The Liberal Democrat spokesman said "it was confirmed that only £18 to £19m of the £23.5m grant had been spent by the deadline, due to delays and schemes not being carried forward".

Herts county councillor Sally Symington, Liberal Democrat shadow spokesperson for resources and performance, said: “It is very disappointing that despite obtaining funding for sustainability-led projects, including the installation of solar panels, air source heat pumps and double glazing across schools and council-owned buildings, the projects could not be delivered in time.

"When funds are so tight, the climate emergency so pressing and the cost-of-living crisis biting hard, it is ridiculous to be returning grants to central government. All the more so, when the funding is to tackle carbon emissions in the public sector by reducing energy use and saving the council money."

Hitting back, however, the county council's executive member for resources and performance, Councillor Bob Deering, pointed to the delivery of 249 decarbonisation projects throughout Hertfordshire "within an extremely limited time period".

He said: “This was a very successful programme. We obtained grant funding of in excess of £20million to support the county council’s carbon neutral strategy through the delivery of 249 decarbonisation projects throughout Hertfordshire within an extremely limited time period.

“This was a central government funded programme and we are working hard to make sure the funds make a meaningful impact, mindful that we are spending public money responsibly. That means planning appropriately and making sure that every project delivered provides improvement and savings in terms of carbon efficiency and energy costs.

“At this time we remain in contract and reconciling final accounts across the programme.”