Plans to pay more than £300k for consultants to devise a strategy to help the county council get to net zero by 2030 has sparked a row over the authority’s use of its finances.

Steve Morphew, the council's Labour opposition leader, has raised concern over aspects of the project, which involves finding ways to make the authority's buildings more energy-efficient.

Eastern Daily Press: Norfolk County Council at County Hall in NorwichNorfolk County Council at County Hall in Norwich (Image: Archant)

Leeds-based multinational firm Turner and Townsend has been awarded £327,851 by the county council to plan the programme of works at more than 100 buildings.

It will involve finding ways to reduce the properties' carbon footprint, through things like insulation, draught-proofing and ventilation.

It is hoped the eventual improvements will mean Norfolk’s 106 council-owned buildings - including community hubs, children’s homes, libraries, museums, fire stations and other sites - no longer use fossil fuels and retain more energy.

But Mr Morphew - while stressing he supported the aim of net zero - said he was concerned about an apparent lack of oversight.

He added he was surprised the contract had been awarded without a more open debate among councillors.

Eastern Daily Press: Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County CouncilSteve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County Council (Image: Denise Bradley)

"What should be a good thing might well turn out to be an opportunity wasted,” he said.

“To win the active support of councillors and the community there needs to be involvement and information.

“The devil will be in the detail and whether they actually invest the money in what is required.

“Coming from an administration that decided to build a new £2m County Hall car park that has barely seen use, it doesn't instil much confidence."

Council leader Andrew Proctor responded: “We want to meet our ambitious environmental plans for Norfolk and have passed these plans at council, so already have the support of councillors to deliver this.”

Eastern Daily Press: Norfolk County Council leader Andrew ProctorNorfolk County Council leader Andrew Proctor (Image: Norfolk County Council)

He added the council had been “financially prudent” in the development of its car park - which has previously prompted criticism over its cost - and said the work had been necessary to enable staff, including key workers, to easily travel to and from County Hall.

Greg Peck, the council’s cabinet member for asset management, said NCC had already made progress in reducing its carbon footprint by moving away from gas boilers, better insulation of buildings and using LED lighting.

Eastern Daily Press: Greg Peck, Norfolk County Council member for asset managementGreg Peck, Norfolk County Council member for asset management (Image: Norfolk Conservatives)

He added: “As an authority we are committed to achieving zero carbon by 2030, if not sooner, and look forward to working with key partners to understand what further steps we need to take across the estate.

“These studies will identify interventions to improve building fabric, technology, and energy use in a very diverse estate and make a series of recommendations to cabinet.”