CONFUSION prevails over an apparent large discrepancy in Inverclyde Council's carbon emission reduction figures after it agreed to shell out £100,000 of taxpayers money to private eco consultants.

Local authority officials — who argued the cash outlay was essential — claimed in a report to the environment and regeneration committee that emissions had been slashed by 46.5 per cent since 2012/13.

But Councillor Drew McKenzie pointed out that elsewhere in official papers it was clearly stated that the reduction figure since 2007/08 was actually a fraction of this, at less than 20 per cent.

Following this observation regeneration and planning chief Stuart Jamieson refused to comment on the apparent inconsistency in the data publicly during the online meeting, which was being covered by the Telegraph.

Councillor McKenzie — who queried the hefty consultant fee expenditure — pointed out that the report said on one hand that the council had 'already reduced emissions by 46.5 per cent'.

He added: "But in the corporate director's asset management strategy, the last line says that since the financial year 2007/08 the council has reduced its carbon emissions by 19 per cent.

"There's something not right there — am I reading this wrong?"

The 19 per cent figure is published on a page within the council's official asset management strategy.

Mr Jamieson responded: "With regard to the comments on page 186 I'll have to take them offline and come back and update members accordingly."

The Telegraph has asked the council for an explanation about the difference in the figures and why Mr Jamieson failed to provide an answer to Councillor McKenzie during the meeting.

He told committee members that the council now needs 'serious help' to achieve a net zero target set by the Scottish Government.

Mr Jamieson said that a 'step-change' is required and the council has neither the expertise or capacity to go it alone.

He stated: "The net zero target is an extremely challenging one.

"I don't come before committee very often seeking £100,000 worth of consultant costs but we need help to be able to do this, and we need serious help to be able to do this.

"We are going to have to look at this fundamentally in respect of how we make step-change to be able to achieve net zero.

"Council officers do not have the expertise, nor do we have the capacity, to be able to take this to net zero and that is why we are seeking external guidance."

Mr Jamieson said carbon emission reductions achieved to date were 'low-hanging fruit' which was within the authority's 'gift' to achieve.

The council is looking to achieve net zero emissions by 2045, or earlier.

Committee members agreed to the £100,000 investment.

But council leader Stephen McCabe said: "Elected members expect to see serious payback on that in terms of a high quality report with practical measures that can be implemented cost effectively.

"We don't want a highfalutin strategy with a lot of recommendations that are just not practical."