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Shropshire Council holds consultancy fees debate in secret

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An internal investigation into Shropshire Council's spending on consultants has been discussed behind closed doors with the results kept secret.

Members of the public and press were asked to leave a meeting of the council's audit committee on Wednesday when the report came up for discussion at Shirehall.

The review was held in light of management recruitment firm Odgers Interim being paid £327,000 for the work of one private consultant for just over 18 months. But the decision to exclude the press and public came after a 20-minute debate in which opposition leaders said it was 'entirely wrong' not to publish details of the report.

They also said senior council officers had been shown to 'ignore' decisions made by members over consultancy pay.

Tim Collard, legal services manager at the council, said although it was difficult to comment fully in the open session, there would be specific council officers named in the report.

He added: "Individuals would not have the opportunity to respond at this meeting and as a matter of fairness it has been moved."

The report is being kept secret under the council's Access to Information Procedure Rules, which state matters can be discussed in closed session if it is in the 'public interest'.

But Labour leader Alan Mosley, councillor for Ditherington and Castlefields, said: "The report shows clear evidence of large amounts of money being spent without accountability. I believe the people of Shropshire and the taxpayers have a right to know what is going on."

Shropshire Council leader Keith Barrow said: "The decision to hear the report in private was made entirely by officers after taking legal advice."

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