Council’s ‘blue book’ set to be published

Fife House
Fife House

FIFE Council’s leader, Alex Rowley has pledged to publish every budget option brought forward by the local authority’s officers.

The Labour councillor has said he is looking to publish the ‘blue book’, which details budget saving options put forward by Council officials, as the authority struggles to bridge a £100 million funding gap.

However, this week Councillor Peter Grant, leader of the Council’s SNP group, described Cllr Rowley’s pledge as a “humiliating U-turn”.

Cllr Rowley explained following recent experiences within other areas, he thought making the information public seemed like the correct way forward.

He said it is a complete change of decision on his part, but he is seeking cross party co-operation to agree a way forward to make this happen.

Mr Rowley said: “There are risks and legal issues involved in publishing the information as it is Council officers’ recommendations.

“It is a complete change of position, I previously said it shouldn’t be published, but given the lessons learnt from publishing the school estate and the fact there’s £100 million to come out the budget in four years it’s important.

“It will bring a wider discussion and debate and the public a far greater view of the difficulties we face.”

Cllr Grant claimed this week the change in tune had only come about after he had been forced to report the Council to the Scottish Information Commissioner, accusing them of blocking transparency.

He said: “This represents a massive victory for the public’s right to know and a humiliating U-Turn by the Council.

“We’re talking about nearly 500 pages of information about potential budget cuts, some of which have been approved, others which have been rejected and many which will probably come back for further consideration in the future.

“The timing suggests that this has been done to stop the Scottish Information Commissioner from publishing a formal decision on the way the council has handled this affair.”

Cllr Rowley refuted these claims, describing them as “the absolute height of hypocrisy and total opportunism”.