The council must release details of the controversial sale of an historic east Reading swimming pool, the Information Commissioner (IC) has ruled.

Reading Borough Council (RBC) failed to provide sufficient justification for concealing details about the sale of Arthur Hill swimming pool, according to the IC.

The independent regulatory office has ordered RBC to release its report from the secret Policy committee discussion on July 16, 2018, when the council chose its preferred bidder for the site.

RBC has until 25 June to release the report or may face action for contempt of court.

A spokesman for the Arthur Hill Campaign said: “RBC’s arguments were so flimsy that it didn’t even bother replying to the IC’s questions on the matter, and the commissioner has quite rightly thrown out the council’s case and rejected its excuses.

“But for deliberate foot-dragging by the council, this matter would have been resolved months ago and local residents would know why the council has decided to sell the pool to a property developer rather than keep it in community use.

“There is no excuse for any more delays: if the council does not release the report immediately it will be clear that this is intended as an act of contempt for east Reading residents by the Labour councillors who run RBC.

“This case raises serious questions about the conduct of the officers who handled the request for information about sale of the pool, and we will be going to the next Policy committee meeting on 10 June to ask what action will be taken to address their failings”.

The case was investigated in response to a complaint from the Arthur Hill Campaign, which has consistently called for the site to be kept for community use.

The campaigners requested a copy of the secret report using the Freedom of Information Act, which was rejected by the council.

Following a series of protests organised in January ‘to shame RBC into releasing information about the sale of Arthur Hill’, the council released a redacted version of the document, giving limited details of the sale

This included the name of the successful bidder: One of a Kind Developments.

However, the IC has now ordered that the report should be published in full with no details redacted.

RBC told the commissioner it considered the disclosure of the requested information ‘would prejudice’ the commercial interests of the parties concerned.

The IC said the council failed to explain how disclosing the report would prejudice commercial interests.

The council was asked ‘a number of times’ to submit arguments to justify withholding the report, but failed to do so.

Following an eight-month investigation, the IC decided that sufficient arguments had not been provided to demonstrate that disclosure would prejudice either the council’s commercial interests or the commercial interests of third parties.

The local authority has 28 days to appeal the decision.

RBC has been approached for comment.