A WAR of words has broken out after Swindon Council was accused of trying to cover up evidence and financial information about the town’s blanket wi-fi project.

North Swindon MP Michael Wills claims the council has misled residents about government funding and gave a £500,000 loan to a private company for the scheme without going to a competitive tender.

The accusations have been strongly refuted by leader of the council, Rod Bluh, who says Mr Wills’ comments are full of “political bias and ill-informed comment”.

But Mr Wills claims the council has tried to hide details from the public on a number of occasions by claiming they are confidential.

He said: “For years, Swindon borough councillors have misled residents about government funding but there is growing evidence that this forms part of a pattern.

“I remain worried by the case of Oakhurst School. In 2008, the council claimed they could not afford to build this school because the Government had only given them £1.8million to build a school that cost £7million.

“Not a single councillor challenged that figure. Instead they blamed the Government. The truth was that the Government had given them 20 times the figure they claimed. It now appears this cover-up is not a one-off.

“And then, there is the case of the wi-fi scheme.

Swindon Borough Council loaned nearly half a million pounds to a private company without going out to competitive tender and have offered it other benefits as well, with no proper consultation and scrutiny.

“And when asked to provide evidence that they undertook due diligence on these significant sums of Swindon council taxpayers’ money, they refuse to do so on the grounds that this is ‘confidential’. What’s going on here? What are they covering up?

“I believe there is evidence of systemic secrecy in Swindon Borough Council about money and this represents a failure of governance. I call now on Swindon Borough Council to reveal the truth about Oakhurst School and the wi-fi scheme and do the survey on bus travel residents want.

“Transparency is fundamental to good governance. It’s time Swindon borough councillors remembered they serve residents and not the other way round.”

Coun Bluh has said the claims were completely unfounded and that everything that has been done has been open to scrutiny.

He said: “There must be an election coming.

“Every point Michael makes is full of inaccuracies, political bias and ill-informed comment.

“I would expect better of an MP for Swindon.

“This is not a good sign for the way this general election is going to be fought. I am happy to sit down and have a debate about this and all is open to scrutiny.”