Replacing all city council vehicles with an electric fleet would require a massive hike in council tax, a leading Carlisle councillor has warned.

Deputy leader Gareth Ellis urged his fellow councillors to be “realistic” about their demands to tackle climate change and to consider the practicalities as well as the cost involved in an earlier roll-out of the eco-friendly vehicles.

The city council has already declared a climate emergency and pledged to become carbon neutral by 2030, but some campaigners want to bring this forward to 2025.

The authority has explored the idea of moving to an electric fleet in the next five years, which would cost between £15m and £20m, money that the cash-strapped authority simply does not have.

Councillor Ellis claimed that the only way to bring the project forward would be through a 15 to 18 per cent hike in council tax – an increase so great that it would require a district-wide referendum, a move that he did not recommend.

And it has been estimated that borrowing the money needed to fund the project would cost the council about £1m to £1.1m per year in interest repayments.

A meeting of the Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Panel also heard that technology was “not ready” to meet practical demands, with some bin wagons likely to run out of juice halfway through their round.

He said: “There’s not just the cost involved: there’s the practicalities of it.

“If you pour enough money into it, you might be able to make it work in the immediate urban area, but it wouldn’t work miles away from the city.

“We did a projection of what the cost might be if we did replace our fleet earlier and it was between £15m and £25m.

“There is absolutely no way that we have this money spare in our capital budget, considering that we have £647,000 for the current replacement for this year.

“We had had demands for the council to bring climate changes responses earlier [and] to become carbon neutral by 2025.

“If we were to do that – if we were to replace our vehicle fleet and get that earlier – it would be an extra cost of between £15 and £25m.”

A standard mechanical sweeper, for example, cost around £65,000 while an electric equivalent would cost between £180,000 to £250,000.

He added that those who wanted this electric fleet operational in the next five years must first propose a referendum to increase council tax.