Work to move two libraries into fire stations will go ahead, even though the project has gone over budget.

In 2014, the county council secured £700,000 from the Home Office for plans to relocate Sawbridgeworth, Buntingford, Redbourn and Wheathampstead libraries in their local fire stations.

Buntingford Library was dropped from the plans at an earlier stage, due to local opposition.

Now Sawbridgeworth Library will be removed from plans even though the decision not to go-ahead could cost the county an estimated £233,000 in lost funding.

The county council’s cabinet made the decision on Monday, amid local concerns and some construction issues at the site.

When Buntingford was removed from the proposals, in 2016, the Home Office told the council it could keep the funds, because of the significant benefits of the remaining project.

But there are concerns that ditching the third strand of the scheme will mean having to pay back some of the funding.

Executive member for education, libraries and localism Cllr Terry Douris told the cabinet a third of the funding- some 233,000 - was “likely” to be withdrawn by the Home Office as a result.

Meanwhile it was also reported that work on the relocation of Redbourn and Wheathampstead libraries – which are due to open within weeks – has gone over budget.

The cabinet agreed an additional £674,000 could be transferred to the project from the council’s ‘Inspiring Libraries Transformation Funding’.

Despite the additional costs, councillors were told that gaining the two refurbished library facilities – at Redbourn and Wheathampstead – was still “good value for money”

Clr Ralph Sangster, executive member for resources and performance, said: “The projects – as they have turned out  – have given us two new fire stations and two new libraries.

“If we were reconsidering this in the knowledge of the costs involved, I think we would still have made the right decision.

“They are not such that they would have deterred us from gaining the benefits provided to us. The costs – although more than thought – are still good value for money.”

According to the report to the cabinet meeting, co-locating the two libraries and fire stations will save an estimated £50,000 a year in lighting, heating and maintenance costs.

Accounting for the overspend, the report points to some ground works, statutory requirements, provision of zinc roofing materials, and statutory requirements that were not included in the initial feasibility study.

Neither did that study account for the additional requirements of maintaining ‘live’ fire stations during the construction period.

Despite the overspend on these projects Cllr Douris said the library service had a good track record of refurbishing an improving library services.

At the meeting of the cabinet, council leader Cllr David Williams said investment in the county’s libraries was something that he was proud of.

And he said the council would not give up on finding an alternative for the library in Sawbridgeworth.