Probe is launched into secret report

Crystal Road hotel and (below) David Palmer.
Crystal Road hotel and (below) David Palmer.
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AN investigation is being held into why town hall chiefs are keeping a controversial report under wraps.

The Information Commissioner is examining a decision by Blackpool Council to keep the report into a £2.7m property deal secret.

David Palmer

David Palmer

The authority has refused to publish the report which cleared councillors of any wrongdoing when the multi-million pound stock of houses was sold for just £3 as part of a social housing pilot scheme now underway.

Transactions included the purchase of a property on Crystal Road owned by former Tory councillors Ian and Susan Fowler, and the purchase of former hotels Shadowlands on Pleasant Street, and the Saville on Tyldesley Road, and the King Edward Apartments on Central Drive using funding from the Homes and Communities Agency.

Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn ordered a probe into the deal, which cost £65,000 and was completed in January this year.

But despite calls from the Conservative group, and from campaigner David Palmer, the full report has never been made public.

Now Mr Palmer, a Bispham-based cabbie has called in the Information Commissioner who has agreed to investigate.

Mr Palmer said: “I did not accept it was not in the public interest to withhold this information as a large number of people were affected by the actions of the council collectively, namely tax and rate payers.

“If the councillors were exonerated by the report I cannot see why the public should not learn of the decision of the experts instructed and paid for out of rate payers coffers.

“I was shocked by the excuses given by the council not to release the report, so engaging the Information Commissioner was the only option.

“When I asked Coun Blackburn for a full inquiry last year I hoped the full facts would come to light but yet again this farce has been brushed under the carpet.

“I can only conclude the council has something to hide.”

Refused

Town hall chiefs refused to release the full report because they said it contained confidential information.

Freedom of information requests submitted by Mr Palmer, who maintains the properties were over-valued, were also refused, prompting him to submit his complaint to the Information Commissioner.

A Blackpool Council spokesman said: “We await the outcome of the Information Commissioner’s decision.”