Council: “We didn’t shred tram documents. But we won’t show you them”

Edinburgh council say documents relating to the controversial project do exist - but releasing them would cost too much

TRAM bosses accused of shredding crucial project documents today insisted that they do have them after all – but will keep them under wraps.

Edinburgh City Council say finding the documents and putting them together would cost too much, leading to claims they have something to hide.

Officials had responded to a Freedom of Information request from Labour politicians asking for detail of the decision to remove TransportScotlandfrom the Trams board when the SNP came into power in 2007.

Initially the council claimed they no longer held the information, but following a request form Labour for the refusal to be reviewed the legal department at the council said the chief executive’s office and city development directorate only kept correspondence for a year.

They said that diaries from 2007 and 2008 were no longer held and the trams company TIE only kept correspondence for a year.

Labour accused the council of destroying the documents ahead of a public enquiry into the tram saga.

However the council then backtracked and said the response was “not entirely accurate”.

But they are still refusing to make the papers regarding the controversial project public, because of the costs involved.

In a letter to Labour, council officials wrote: “Unfortunately we are unable to provide you with the information you have requested as the cost of locating, collating and providing you with the information is greater than the statutory maximum of £600. While we are unable to calculate exactly what the cost of complying with your request would be, it would be well in excess of the £600 threshold.”

They did provide one relevant letter, from Transport Scotland to the council’s then chief executive Tom Aitchison.

The letter went on to say: “The chief executive’s office applies a policy opf retaining documents, general correspondence and diaries for five years and not one year in my colleagues letter of 7 November. The diaries and records are therefore held by the council.

“The city development directorate office has since confirmed that general correspondence is reviewed on an annual basis ans files are carefully weeded. Any information of continuing business value to the department is subsequently retained. There is no blanket policy to destroy records on an annual basis.”

But Andrew Burns, leader of the council’s Labour group, said: “The SNP and Lib Dem politicians in charge of the council need to get a grip of this situation. Issuing formal notices claiming that papers have been destroyed, then claiming they do actually exist but refusing to release them is no way to run a capital city. And is it any wonder that people think the council is trying to hide something?”