A council has been called “crazy” for approving a �750,000 computer systems upgrade at a time when it has to find savings of �1.5m.

Rubber-stamped plans to spend the money on new servers and upgrading software licences at North Herts District Council over the next year have been slammed by the Liberal Democrats as “madness” in the circumstances.

Lib Dem leader at the council, Steve Jarvis, said: “At a time when the council is talking of having to make savings of more that �1.5m it is crazy to spend so much on new computers and software.

“We are told that there is a business case for the spending but nobody can tell me it will actually save the council any money.

“I’m sure that it would be nice to have the latest version of every piece of software and shiny new computers but the council could manage with older versions for a bit longer, just like many local businesses will do. To press on with these plans at the present time is madness.”

But deputy leader of the Tory-controlled council, Terry Hone, who is also portfolio holder for finance and IT, said it was necessary to spend the money to protect services and increase efficiency.

“It is obviously important to save money but we also need to make sure our networks are reliable and that our front line services are properly supported.

“If we did not renew our software licences we will no longer receive technical support from the suppliers and if something goes wrong we won’t have the back-up we need. This is a vital expense we have to make to keep delivering the services that people value.

“In the same way the money we spend on new servers is to make us more efficient - keeping running costs down and using less energy to run them.”

The council has estimated it will cost �250,000 to renew software licences and �213,000 on new servers.