THE LEADER of Swindon Borough Council has agreed to ask the Audit Commission to review the decision to set up a free wi-fi internet service in the town.

Councillor Rod Bluh (Con) has signed an agreement with the leader of the Labour Group, Coun Derique Montaut, that the £450k loan to Digital City should be referred to the Audit Commission.

The auditors will also be asked to decide whether due process was followed and compliance with best value principles.

The council’s scrutiny committee is set to report back on the issue tonight as well as the audit committee tomorrow night.

It is thought that both parties agreed to sign the agreement in an attempt to bring closure to the issue, which has caused arguments between both sides for many months now.

Swindon Borough Council has also received many queries from members of the public on the issue, which has cost thousands of pounds’ worth of officers’ time to answer.

Councillor Derique Montaut, leader of the Labour group, said: “Naturally, I am very pleased that the leader of the council has finally agreed to ask the district auditor to investigate the wi-fi deal.

“Although I wholeheartedly welcome the leader of the council’s admission that an external enquiry into wi-fi is necessary, I am disappointed that he has taken such a long time to agree to this, which has meant that officer time and taxpayer money has had to be spent investigating all the mistakes that have been made in to wi-fi.

“I have been calling for an external enquiry for months now, because this council needs to focus on the things that matter to all Swindoners, like getting value for money for our council tax payers and ensuring that our public services are working to suit the needs of our townspeople. With the external auditors now investigating the Conservative administration’s wi-fi deal, I believe the council can do this.

“I would also like to add that the Labour Group has always supported the merits of universal wi-fi and will continue to champion the wi-fi scheme.“ But Coun Bluh said he was confident that the Audit Commission would not find anything wrong with the process.

“I have reached an agreement with the Labour Group Leader that as and when the wi-fi project, which is fully supported by both the Conservative and Labour Groups, has been finally cleared by the Scrutiny and Audit Committees then in the interests of allowing the wi-fi project to move forward without further damaging publicity, without incurring additional costs to the taxpayer and to stop the enormous amount of officer time being spent on this issue to date, I will ask the external auditor to confirm the findings of the internal audit report and also to confirm that due process has been followed throughout,” he said.

“It is time to allow this fantastic, innovative opportunity to get properly underway to deliver for Swindon.”

Coun Bluh is standing for re-election in the Dorcan ward. Other candidates standing include: Sarah Bush (Labour), Roger Hiett (British National Party), Clive Hooper (Liberal Demcrat), David Miles (The Green Party), Bob Sheppard (UK Independence Party).