North Yorkshire Police has now said it IS investigating a leak of confidential documents from Scarborough Council, two days after denying the claim.
The authority’s legal director Lisa Dixon last week said the force’s cybercrime unit was taking on the matter after confidential documents showing the council would borrow £22m to fund a town centre regeneration scheme appeared online.
When asked by the Local Democracy Reporting Service on Tuesday, however, North Yorkshire Police said it had not launched a criminal investigation.
A spokesman for the force said: “We are not currently investigating this matter.”
Now, the force has said it is involved with the leak.
Chief Inspector Rachel Wood, operations commander for Scarborough and Reydale, said: “Further to our statement [on Tuesday] I would like to clarify that, in fact, North Yorkshire Police have opened an investigation into the matters raised to us by Scarborough Borough Council.
“The investigation is at an early stage and we are still in the process of gathering relevant information and evidence.”
Mrs Dixon told a meeting of the council’s Audit Committee last Thursday that the council had concluded that the leak of the documents could amount to misconduct in public office, a criminal offence which in the most serious cases can carry a punishment of life imprisonment.
She said the council had brought in the force’s cybercrime unit and the investigation was “in their hands”.
At the Audit Committee meeting, councillors were also told that the council had handed over a number of documents to the police following the leak.
The leaked documents which appeared online showed the financial implications of a large regeneration project after the council approved the purchase and demolition of the former Argos building in Newborough to create accommodation for 200 university students and trainee nurses and doctors in partnership with the York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
The documents revealed the council would almost double its debt by borrowing £22m to fund the project in which it will also partner with developer Wrenbridge Land Ltd and CU Scarborough, the town’s university.
It also showed the developer would make more than double the profit of the council under the terms of the agreement.