Hertfordshire County Council is to cut £1.5million from the amount it gives to district and borough councils to reward kerbside recycling.

The county council has operated the reward scheme since 2008 – giving more than £33 million back to the 10 authorities over 12 years.

But at a cabinet meeting on Monday it was agreed the amount available would be cut by £500,000 a year for the next three years.

Districts and borough councils had urged the county council to delay the reduction – or to spread it over a longer period.

They say they are already being hit financially by a fall in demand for recyclable materials – and they have warned the move will damage the relationship with the county council.

But the county council says the move reflects the level of additional savings it needs to make – particularly to support adult care and children’s services.

The county says it must still save £19.9 million for the 2020/2021 budget.

The reward scheme works by redistributing savings accrued to the county council, which disposes of rubbish, as a direct result of better kerbside recycling practices.

It is designed to encourage district and borough councils, which run kerbside collection, to promote recycling.

Ten per cent of these savings are kept by the county council, with the rest shared according to the size of the authority and the savings made by each authority compared to the year before.

Similar reward schemes operate in other areas of the country but the Hertfordshire scheme – which last year redistributed more than £4 million – is said to be one of the most generous.

Last year £4.147 million was passed to districts and boroughs – with £397,977 for Broxbourne; £442,948 for Dacorum; £326,582 for East Herts; £330,141 for Hertsmere; £577,153 for North Herts; £836,469 for St Albans; £236,755 for Stevenage; £353,699 for Three Rivers; £346,312 for Watford; and £299,437 for Welwyn Hatfield.

Over the past three years the county council has kept back £1 million from the scheme – at a rate of £333,000 a year.

And following the agreement of the cabinet on Monday, the county council will reduce the pot available to district and boroughs to the tune of £1.5 million, at a rate of £500,000 a year.

At the meeting, executive member for community safety and waste management Cllr Terry Hone said the council had needed to look at what they could contribute towards the funding required “to maintain the high level of care for adults and children in our community”.

And he suggested that not every council had always used the funds from the scheme to increase their recycling rates as they were supposed to.

A written response from Welwyn Hatfield’s corporate director Ka Ng – on behalf of all the district and borough councils – said the planned reduction came as the districts were suffering “significant budget pressures” from falling demand for recyclate materials.

She pointed to investments by the districts that would reduce the waste going to landfill and save the county council millions of pounds in disposal costs.

And she warned that this would not help to reduce the environmental impact across the county.

Last year the cost of waste disposal to the county council was £44.1 million. By 2022/23 it is expected to increase by a further £8 million.