Documents detailing plans on how Edinburgh City Council will respond to a potential second wave of Covid-19 and the predicted impact of another lockdown have been kept secret by officials due to concern around their impact on the authority’s ability to do its job.
Council officials refused to accept calls for transparency and to release reports and other documents outlining what impact a second wave of Covid-19 may have on the Capital and said the public should rely on elected councillors to scrutinise documents rather than be allowed to make up their own minds.
The decision has lead to calls for increased transparency at the council from opposition councillors, and is the latest in a long list of refusals to release information in order to keep decision making and protect officials from public scrutiny.
The council has previously refused to release information around the cost of legal advice connected with the abandoned plans for the Dunard Centre which led to legal action from the St James Quarter, and over details of a £12m legal bill.
In its response to requests for documents including impact assessments and draft reports, the council said the release of such information would prejudice the effective conduct of public office.
It added that concerns around the potential for media sensastionalisation and mixed messages being released to the public were also part of its decision.
The council also pointed to its commitment to update councillors on “resilience planning” at a council meeting, a report which has been pushed back from late August to mid-October since the agreement to publish it in July.
Conservative group chair, councillor Jason Rust said failure to release the information would beg the question whether they exist at all.
He said: "It's really important with public messages rightly adapting to changing circumstances that authorities are totally transparent.
"Failure to release plans will lead to concerns as to whether these are in place.
"Of course no one wants information sensationalised or distorted, but it must be in the public interest and good governance to provide plans and impact assessments.
"It is for the council to communicate adequately and manage that communication and for councillors to scrutinise, but residents should not be kept in the dark."
A council spokesman said: “The risk of a second wave is at the forefront of everybody’s minds and we want to reassure residents that we’re taking all appropriate steps to put contingency plans in place.
"We’ll be updating committee on our approach to resilience planning, including Covid-19, to the next Policy and Sustainability meeting on October 6.
"It’s really important that our plans are kept under constant review and adapted in line with national decisions so publishing a draft document wouldn’t be useful. We will of course continue to confirm and communicate any changes quickly and clearly, in order to continue to keep residents as informed and safe as possible.”