A REVIEW into the management of troubled Musselburgh Racecourse – which has just had its racing licence extended – cost £50,000, East Lothian Council has told the Courier.

Claims made at a public meeting of East Lothian Council last Tuesday that the review cost taxpayers £100,000 have been dismissed by council chiefs – but the details of the review’s findings will remain private as they are deemed “commercially sensitive”.

An independent review of the management of the racecourse was carried out after the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) threatened not to renew its licence in July this year.

The review – carried out by legal firm Pinsent Mason, who were appointed by East Lothian Council – returned its findings to both the local authority and Lothians Racing Syndicate, who together form the membership of Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee (MJRC), the body which runs the racecourse.

However, as the Courier revealed earlier this month, the council is refusing to make the findings public after describing it as a “private report which contains commercially sensitive information”.

During a meeting of East Lothian Council in Haddington last Tuesday, Councillor Kenny McLeod (SNP) wanted details to be aired in public.

He said: “I asked publicly at the last meeting who was paying for the cost of the investigation into the management of the racecourse and think the answer should also come publicly.

“It is rumoured the cost is somewhere in the region of £100,000.”

“I asked it in a public forum and it is in the public interest but we are told it will be discussed in private.”

Angela Leitch, council chief executive, told Mr McLeod that any discussion of the costs would have to wait until the meeting was moved into private session.

Following the meeting, the Courier asked the council to comment on the cost of the review.

A council spokesperson later revealed: “The cost of the independent governance review was £50,000 – half of which is being paid by the council.”

During the meeting, Councillor Stuart Currie, SNP Group leader, also called for a redacted version of the report and its findings, which would see commercially sensitive information removed, to be made available to the public but was told it was “complicated”.

Concern over the management of the racecourse led the BHA, earlier this year, to refuse to renew a temporary licence unless the council agreed to hold an independent review and implement its recommendations.

The course had previously been refused a permanent licence over concerns over a rift between Lothians Racing Syndicate, which has three members on MJRC, and the council, which has four.

The council leases the racecourse and buildings to MJRC – the ground the course is built on is owned by the Musselburgh Common Good Fund and is leased to the council. In 2015, MJRC was stripped of its Investors In People Scotland award after a report branded the management committee “dysfunctional”.

Earlier this year, racecourse staff threatened industrial action over the management of the venue and matters came to a head in July when the BHA demanded an independent goverance review be carried out and its recommendations implemented. MJRC and the council agreed to the review.

The current temporary licence was due to run out on December 31 but the BHA has now approved an extension till March.

Following last week’s council meeting, Councillor Fiona O’Donnell (Lab), an MJRC member, said: “Whilst the [report’s]contents remain confidential at this stage, I can say there are a number of options presented and we are already working to progress matters with a view towards ensuring certainty for the future of the racecourse. and I have written to racecourse staff to reassure them of this.

“We will continue to update the BHA on our progress in considering the findings of the review.

“I believe this is a further, positive step towards securing this much-loved facility, in the best interests of employees, race-goers and the wider community.”