AN INVESTIGATION has been launched to find the source of an alleged city council leak of confidential information.

It follows the news that Liberal Democrat councillor Kim Gottlieb had entered negotiations with Winchester City Council over the sale of St Clements Surgery, a key site within the Central Winchester Regeneration project, otherwise known as Silver Hill 2.

The investigation was revealed at last week’s full council meeting when fellow Lib Dem councillor Brian Laming asked: “Can the leader (Cllr Caroline Horrill) and the chief executive (Laura Taylor) assure this chamber that they will put every effort into finding the “well-placed source” of the leak of highly confidential papers to the press.

“It is an extraordinary breach of confidentiality and puts the council’s reputation in jeopardy.”

Cllr Caroline Horrill said in response: “It is very disappointing that the a matter before the chamber this evening has been extensively reported in the local press.

“The chief executive has initiated an investigation and should the route of the release of any confidential information be established, appropriate action will be taken.”

As the council was about to enter confidential discussions about a land transaction – believed to be St Clements Surgery – there were calls for “greater transparency” by Conservative councillor Fiona Mather.

Fellow Conservative councillor Stephen Godfrey, portfolio holder for professional services, said: “We’ve had significant problems debating about this property. Would it not be possible to have the debate in open session?”

The move to openly discuss the transaction was defeated in a vote, with Liberal Democrat councillors refusing to take part. Their leader, Cllr Lucille Thompson, added that the party would not be taking part in the debate once the meeting had gone behind closed doors.

Following the meeting, Cllr Gottlieb said: “Of course everything about this matter must be made public in time, but the issue is becoming one of the integrity of the council. Someone in a senior position within the council has leaked and manipulated confidential information for political purposes. This embarrasses the council and, in the absence of the culprit/s being identified, casts a shadow over the council’s decision-making processes in respect of St Clements.”