Highland Council chiefs have been accused of lacking “accountability and transparency” over spending from the £315million Inverness City Region Deal.
Opposition Liberal Democrats yesterday (THURS) vented their frustration over the cash.
Councillor Alec Graham was disappointed at having to resort to council leader’s question-time at the latest full council meeting at the Glenurquhart Road headquarters to glean information.
He wanted to know how much of the Scottish and UK Government-pledged £315million for major projects had so far been granted, and how it was spent.
He was informed that the council received an advance of £3million in 2015-16, and that £666,000 of it was pumped into “project development, Inverness Castle and city centre wifi”.
Bids for further funding have been made for £158,000 for the Science Skills Academy, £70,000 for the “commercialisation of health”, £250,000 for the “Northern Innovation Hub”, £231,000 for Inverness Castle, and £150,000 for land remediation.
Councillor Graham said: “We need regular, detailed reports coming to the city and resources committees. But the administration could immediately publish information on the council’s website outlining how much money has been received, what it’s been spent on and what projects are in the pipeline.
“I’m disappointed. They could have been more transparent, sooner, given the high profile nature of the deal.”
Council leader Margaret Davidson defended the pace of publication.
Speaking after the debate, she said: “We’re in the middle of doing businesses cases which means going back and forth between Scottish and UK government.
“The big infrastructure projects are underway, Transport Scotland is starting to consult. The city committee and planning committee will have full reports and updates.”
She added that group leaders on the council were all invited to city deal briefings.
City Lib Dem councillor Thomas Prag recently stepped in for his group leader Alasdair Christie at one of the meetings.
He said: “People are waiting agog to find out. There are big projects being talked about and not a lot of hard evidence, but it takes time. A cross-party scrutiny board has only just been set up.”