COMMUNITY councillors in Helensburgh have accused Argyll and Bute Council of a lack of transparency over the business case for the town’s new waterfront project.

The main works contract for the scheme, which currently has an estimated cost of £19.5 million, was awarded last week following meetings of the local authority's Helensburgh and Lomond area committee and business continuity committee.

But resolutions were passed at both meetings excluding the press and the public from large parts of the discussions – including the business case for the project and the recommendation on which tender bid should be accepted.

And the identity of the winning bidder, and the value of the contract, won't be made public until mid-July following a statutory 'standstill' period.

READ MORE: Helensburgh waterfront contractor chosen – but pleas for more financial transparency are turned down

Dr Peter Brown, vice-convener of Helensburgh Community Council (HCC), told the Advertiser: “Argyll and Bute Council have chosen to keep the business case for this £20m building hidden from the public and therefore the community council is unable to comment on whether the council is spending public money wisely on the much-needed replacement for our existing swimming pool.

“As reported in last week’s Advertiser, this is a particularly surprising decision from a council which was criticised in last month’s Audit Scotland report about their approach to the Rothesay Pavilion project.

“Specifically, Audit Scotland insisted that Argyll and Bute Council ensure that future capital projects have “a sound business case” and “transparent options appraisal”.

“There is nothing transparent about a process which is being kept under wraps.

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“We have to ask: why is the council keen to avoid any scrutiny of its plans?

“There is no reason for the risks, and mitigation plans, that must be part of the business case to be kept from the public.

“The primary risk to this project has to be financial. We note that in February, the council’s policy and resources committee set aside £4.6m to address uncertainty in the waterfront project along with Rothesay Pavilion and future landfill constraints.

“The Pavilion project is already over-budget, and the contractor has gone into administration.

READ MORE: Auditors' report sparks fresh plea over management of Helensburgh's near-£20m waterfront project

"Therefore there is very little scope for councillors to allow the waterfront project to go beyond its current £19.5m budget.

“Beyond the capital expenditure, it is also essential that councillors have carefully reviewed an ongoing business plan as part of the business case.

“This building has a design life of 40 years and we, as council tax-payers, will have to foot the bill for any mis-managed decisions about this building for some time to come.”

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A council spokesperson said: “Reports on the next step in progressing the Helensburgh waterfront development go before both the area committee and business continuity committee for scrutiny and consideration.

“We explain on our website, with the agenda and reports for these meetings, which provisions of the Local Government (Scotland) 1973 Act rule out publication of some information.

“Our focus is on delivering a high quality leisure resource that will benefit both visitors and residents of Helensburgh.”

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