A BID to wrestle back £50,000 in expenses claimed by shamed peer Lord Hanningfield is set to be shelved.

Essex County Council's audit committee today told leader David Finch the cost of pursuing legal action against the former leader was outweighed by its cost and its chances of success.

The recommendation comes a year after Lord Hanningfield was sent an invoice for £50,689.24 urging him to repay expenses claims the council's lawyers believed were not legitimate.

The action followed a police investigation which found the former Tory peer had no criminal case to answer.

However, frequent attempts to convince Lord Hanningfield to repay the money have amounted to nothing.

Today, the committee was given legal advice behind closed doors despite the opposition of three councillors, who said the public had a right to hear the advice.

Afterwards, committee chairman Susan Barker said: "Miss Osborne [director for corporate law and assurance] advised that, in counsel’s view, with which she concurred, the costs of pursuing this case would be significant, with uncertain chances of success.

"She advised that in addition to the significant cost, the council would also have to invest further considerable officer time trying to prepare for and pursue the case, with unlikely prospects of success.

"It is with huge regret that, having taken account of the legal advice and the advice of our external auditors, we feel we have no alternative but to recommend that no further action be taken in this matter."

Mr Finch is due to decide whether to accept the committee's advice shortly.