The former leader of Scarborough Council has welcomed the authority calling in the police to find the source of a leak of confidential information.
Councillor Derek Bastiman, the leader of the Conservative opposition group on the authority and former council leader, says he will take action if any of his councillors are found to have been the source of the leak of the documents relating to the proposed Argos building re-development.
North Yorkshire Police’s cybercrime unit is investigating the leak, which revealed that the council would borrow more than £20m to fund the regeneration project.
Coun Bastiman said: “If it is proved that it was a member of the Conservative group who was responsible I can give an assurance that the most severe sanction available to me will be imposed and I hope that the leaders of any other groups on the council will take the same action, assuming that if it is a member who is responsible and they are a member of a group.”
The documents in question appeared online and laid bare the confidential financial implications of a large regeneration project after the council approved the purchase and demolition former Argos building in Newborough to create accommodation for 200 university students and trainee nurses and doctors in partnership with the York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
The leak revealed the council would almost double its debt by borrowing £22m to fund the project in which it will also partner with developer Wrenbridge Land Ltd and CU Scarborough, the town’s university. It also showed that the developer would stand to make more than double the profit of the council from the project.
Coun Bastiman has also called for action to be taken against coucillors who have been discussing the financial details of the scheme publicly.
He added: “I also hope that as the council leader, Coun Steve Siddons, who advocates and promotes openness and transparency, will be equally keen to take action against any councillor or councillors, who have been interviewed about this matter on radio or in the media, knowing that they have been given the private and confidential information in confidence and on trust.
“As the former leader of the council who was involved in negotiations with various potential investors and developers, I regarded it of paramount importance that confidential discussions remained confidential.
“Anything less would result in a loss of confidence and reputation in the council and third parties.
“The damaging effect of leaking sensitive commercial information when negotiating important contracts has a potentially widespread impact on new investment and job opportunities.
“The whole of the borough can ultimately suffer from such irresponsible action. I hope the police are able to trace and prosecute the guilty party without delay to help promote confidence in the council and its elected members.”
On Thursday, the council’s legal director Lisa Dixon confirmed the authority had reported the matter to the police after deciding the breach of GPDR could be considered misconduct in public office, a criminal offence which in the most serious of cases can carry a prison term of life imprisonment.
The council is now co-operating with the police and has handed over a number of documents to the force.