WREXHAM Council has come under fire for spending almost half a million pounds on consultancy fees.

The figure was obtained by the area’s MP, Ian Lucas, with a Freedom of Information (FOI) request after a report was circulated to councillors detailing the costs, which was not made available to the general public.

In the report now released to the MP, councillors are told that the total fees paid to consultants and lawyers for the period April 1, 2009, to March 31 this year was £486,691.10p.

Mr Lucas said: “The council originally gave these figures to councillors in a report, but that report was restricted which meant the figures were not to be released.

“Indeed, the council did not release the figures to me on my first request. I then put in a Freedom of Information request and eventually obtained the relevant report.

“The council cited commercial confidentiality as part of the reasoning behind its actions.

“That report shows that the council spent almost half a million pounds on consultants and legal fees in the space of one year.”

He added: “With the current climate on spending and costs, I believe it is important for the council to be as open as possible about what public money it is spending, where that money is being spent and why.

“I understand the council’s concerns over commercial confidentiality.

“However, that should never be used an excuse for the council to not reveal what it is doing with a significant chunk of taxpayer’s cash.

“As Parliament has already discovered, trust is undermined when there is a lack of clarity over how the public’s money is spent.”

Cllr Aled Roberts, leader of Wrexham Council, said: “Wrexham Council prides itself on being an open and transparent organisation and we have provided the information to Mr Lucas as requested under the FOI enquiry.

“The information was exempt for release because it included personal business information.

“The amount of money being spent by the council has been reducing steadily in recent years and members are provided with regular reports with regard to spend in this area.

“Compared with others, Mr Lucas can be assured that extra costs and fees are only incurred where absolutely necessary.”