Hertfordshire County Council has spent £119,000 on the exploration of options for local government reform, it has emerged.

Currently Hertfordshire operates under a ‘two-tier’ council system –  with the county council and a network of district and borough providing different services for residents.

But bosses at the county council have been keen to consider what a ‘unitary’ system might mean for the county, in advance of the expected devolution white paper.

Last November the county council commissioned consultants PwC to look at whether there was a financial case for moving to a unitary model.

And since then they are reported to have been commissioned to develop an engagement strategy too.

At a meeting of the county council on Tuesday (October 20) leader of the Liberal Democrat group Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst asked how much the council had spent ‘on exploring the Local Government  Reform agenda of the Leader of the Council’.

And in a written response executive member for resources and performance Cllr Ralph Sangster said that £107,500 had been spent on consultancy fees  – and a further £12,000 on officer time.

Leader of the county council Cllr David Williams has argued that the change could deliver improved and more efficient services, as well as substantial savings.

And according to the PwC report prepared for the county council, moving to a ‘unitary’ model could save Hertfordshire up to £142million a year.

But during the meeting, Cllr Giles-Medhurst said money had been “wasted” and that he was “shocked” a county council officer – or officers- had been taken away from regular duties for part of this work during the council’s response to the pandemic.

Leaders of all 10 district and borough councils in the county have already publicly vowed to oppose any plans for a single unitary authority.

Under Hertfordshire’s existing two-tier system the 10 district and borough councils provide services such as planning, environmental health, bin collection, housing and licensing.

And the county council provides services such as education, libraries, social care, highways – and even the fire service.

But under a unitary system all services would be provided by a single council.