INDUSTRIAL action is being threatened over a move to bring Musselburgh Racecourse under the full control of East Lothian Council.

It was revealed this week that the decision over whether the council will take over the full running of the course will be made behind closed doors after officials ruled it was too “commercially sensitive” for public debate.

A report will be presented to councillors on Tuesday outlining what the council believes is the best way forward for the course.

The Courier revealed last week that the local authority wanted to fully take over the running of the course in a move described by racing sources as a “power grab”.

On Tuesday, Carlo Grilli, the council’s head of legal service, confirmed that the paper outlining the proposals would not be made public.

But the GMB union has written to councillors warning them that approving the plans could lead to industrial action by staff at the course.

The council stepped in to save the racecourse in 1991 as financial problems put its future in doubt.

In 1994, Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee (MJRC) was established as a partnership between Lothians Racing Syndicate (LRS) and East Lothian Council (ELC). The committee is made up of four councillors and three representatives from LRS.

The course sits on Musselburgh Common Good land and the local authority owns all the facilities, including grandstands and stables. MJRC pays a full commercial rent for use of the land and facilities to both the Common Good Fund and ELC.

At a meeting of the council’s audit and governance committee on Tuesday, Mr Grilli said that the paper which would go to council next week on the course would remain private because it contained “commercially sensitive” information.

The move was described by SNP councillor Stuart Currie, a ward member for Musselburgh, as “disappointing”.

Speaking after the meeting, he said: “I am disappointed if the paper is going to be dealt with in private. We need to restore public confidence.

“There are millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money put into this course, it is public land and the buildings are council-owned.”

The move comes after years of wrangling within MJRC.

In 2015, Investors In People withdrew its endorsement of the facility after branding MJRC leadership dysfunctional, then last year the British Horseracing Authority became so concerned it threatened not to renew the course’s licence unless an independent report into its governance was carried out.

The findings of that review have never been made public but it is understood one option offered was for MJRC to be made an associated committee and brought under council control.

Staff at the course have been told they will become council employees if the move is approved.

Barry Fletcher, regional secretary of the GMB union, has written to councillors warning of their concerns.

He said: “If the council adopts the proposals it would result in an objection in the Court of Session by LRS, industrial action by racecourse staff and possibly the British Horseracing Authority declining ELC’s application for a racecourse licence beyond the expiry of the current licence (April 7, 2018).

“The GMB feels strongly an interim change to MJRC is unnecessary and could have very serious, detrimental, long-term consequences for Musselburgh Racecourse.”

John Prideaux, chairman of LRS, accused the council of creating a “smokescreen”.

He said: “LRS can see no reason why this important issue is not discussed in an open session of the full council. The Standard Commission’s Code of Conduct states that councillors have a duty to consider issues on their merits and be as open as possible about their decisions and actions, giving reasons for those decisions and restricting information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.

“I would argue that by taking this shabby decision to discuss this issue in private, ELC are in neglect of their duty to employees of Musselburgh Racecourse and to many East Lothian constituents who want to see the racecourse on a solid footing.”