Two councillors said this evening that they had been gagged after finding out how much the council is paying cost-cutting consultants involved in chaotic new school transport contracts.
Former council leader Mary Mears and fellow Conservative councillor Lee Wares said that they were not allowed to share information that was in the public interest.
The pair have been asking questions on behalf of families affected by the school transport contract for children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND).
But, they said, information about the tendering and appointment of the consultant Edge Public Solutions, how much the firm is being paid and how the fee is calculated have been marked confidential.
They added that Brighton and Hove City Council had also marked confidential the internal data that showed the savings required from the budget to pay for the consultants and other set-up costs.
Councillor Lee Wares said “It is scandalous that with the fiasco surrounding the school transport contract unravelling on a daily basis the council even considered preventing us from disclosing the information.
“The audit report says that a ‘business case’ is not required because the savings will come from the budget.
“We now know what the gross savings will be and how much the consultants will be paid together with other set-up costs.
“However, the council say that if we reveal the details we risk being sued and breaching the Member’s Code of Conduct.
“The bottom line is we are being gagged.”
Councillor Mary Mears said: “It is absolutely in the public interest for everybody to know what is going on.
“This is taxpayer money and the council should be totally transparent and open.
“If there is nothing to hide or worry about, why on earth would they prevent the public and those families affected by these issues from knowing?
“What is also of concern is that the council have now employed additional staff to oversee this contract but do not account for the additional cost.
“Nor do they take account of the enormous amount of lost teaching time each day because school staff now have to escort pupils between vehicles and buildings.”