RESIDENTS unhappy with the council have been told to express their views at the ballot box by the leader.

Cllr Russ Bowden (LAB – Birchwood) was pressed on a range of issues during the leader’s forum at Sandy Lane Community Centre in Stockton Heath on Wednesday evening.

They included transparency of the Labour-run authority, commercially sensitive information and the multi-million pound investments being made.

He emphasised the council is not ‘jumping at everything’ and hit out at ‘keyboard experts’ who, he claimed, think they ‘have to be involved in every decision’.

Furthermore, the Town Hall boss confirmed, as part of financial risk assessments over potential deals to buy properties, it explores the possibility of carrying out redevelopment, if anticipated income was to be hit.

“The council is not only interested in its own commercial confidentiality, it is also that of other parties,” said Cllr Bowden.

“There are ways of giving residents information, sometimes you redact the commercially confidential bits, or give them what you can.

“But there isn’t that ultimate right to see absolutely everything the council does.”

Cllr Bowden also said the council is ‘well aware’ it is using public money and that it would not be put at ‘undue risk’.

He said: “As elected members we want to make sure these deals are absolutely watertight.”

He also discussed the mechanisms available for residents unhappy with how it is operating.

“If it’s a question of trust or you don’t like what we are doing, then the process is the ballot box, from a political point of view,” he said.

“If you felt there were things that the council was doing that were immoral or illegal then you have obviously got other routes of recourse, whether that is the police if there is something illegal, or whether you think the council has made a duff decision, you could go to a judicial review, for example.

“There are various ways you can challenge the council.

“But in terms of day-to-day business, ultimately, it is the ballot box.

“If you don’t like what we are doing, you know what to do next time you are at the ballot box.”

Lynton Green, the council’s director of corporate services and deputy chief executive, was also in attendance at the forum.

He said: “There is a 30-day period each year when anybody can come and inspect our accounts.

“We have got a couple of people internally, because of what we have been doing over the last few years, we have some people who are commercial solicitors who specialise in some of this but, clearly, even they are learning on some of the things we are doing.

“So, we do rely on some very big, external solicitor firms to help us on this sort of thing, who specialise in a particular area we are looking at.”