City leaders have been accused of breaching council rules by allowing officials to share the costs of a £30,000 study with Hearts into a new community stadium without approval by councillors.
Councillor Tom Buchanan, the city’s economic development leader, was the only elected member that knew about the work council officials were involved in with the club until the end of May 2011, when the work was briefly mentioned in the appendix of a council committee report.
The work was led by Dave Anderson, the council’s director of city development, but council standing orders – which govern how the authority is run – state items that are “politically controversial” should not be delegated to officials.
The work has proved hugely controversial, amid accusations that the council is biased towards Hearts, with Hibs chief executive Rod Petrie labelling the joint work as “craziness”.
According to the rules, judgement of whether the issue is politically controversial is down to “the relevant officer, in consultation with the appropriate executive member”.
Cllr Buchanan said he was “satisfied” with the way the matter has been dealt with.
But Cllr Iain Whyte, culture and sport spokesman for the Conservative group on the council, said: “You would have thought that the convener would have realised it was a politically sensitive matter, and to brush that aside is incredible.
Hibs fans have raised concerns that Mr Anderson was pushing forward work with Hearts without the approval of the councillors that run the city.
Cllr Buchanan appeared to rule out the prospect of the council building a stadium with Hearts earlier this month, only for a blog entry by Mr Anderson to appear on the official Hearts website within a week saying work was continuing.
Mr Anderson has also told the Evening News that it would be a “failure of ambition” to not consider investment in a community stadium.
The joint study has been completed by consultants but has not been shared with councillors or the public.
The report by consultants DoigSmith and GVA states that redeveloping Tynecastle is not a “viable option” and suggests the council may be able to contribute land for a new stadium.
In response to Cllr Whyte’s concerns, Cllr Buchanan said: “The matter was delegated to the director of city development, taking into account the assets that the council has in the area around Tynecastle and any health and safety issues.
“I understand the sensitivity about football clubs but we invested £15,000 out of a £1 billion-plus budget and the report will come back to council, so I am satisfied with that.”
Cllr Buchanan also said officials were working with Hibs on trying to improve the business offer in Easter Road.