COUNCIL bosses are keeping a £5,000 report on the crumbling Comet paddle steamer replica secret - nine months after receiving it.

Officials are refusing to release the document they received last November, declaring that it is not sufficiently in the public interest to do so.

The Tele revealed back in April how the iconic symbol of the district's maritime history has been condemned after being left to rot in its Port Glasgow land berth through the inaction of the local authority.

We lodged a request under Freedom of Information laws to Municipal Buildings chiefs to see the study prepared by a marine architect but the council is keeping it under wraps.

The local authority claims that 'the public interest in withholding the information outweighs the public interest in disclosing it'.

Their statement said: "It is acknowledged that there is a public interest in this matter.

"However, the purpose of the report is to assist officers and elected members to make an informed and impartial decision regarding the future of the Comet replica.

"There is a greater public interest in allowing officers and elected members space to enable all options to be properly considered.

"To disclose the information at this point is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of this matter between officers and elected members which is in turn likely to undermine the quality of the decision making process."

The council statement continues: "It is submitted that the public interest will be satisfied by the release of all relevant information concerning the decisions ultimately reached and the reasons for this and this will occur when a report on all of the possible options being considered is presented to the relevant committee for a decision."

No repair work whatsoever has been carried out on the Port Glasgow landmark - over a year after £50,000 was set aside to 'urgently' help address a catalogue of serious structural issues.​

The Telegraph revealed earlier this year that the only money spent since the cash allocation was announced has been on a feasibility study into what restoration options — if any — are now available.​

It is understood from a number of sources that the surveyor hired by the council to inspect the vessel has condemned her, and this fact has not been disputed by the local authority.​

​We reported in April last year how 'essential repairs' and repainting worth £50,000 were to be carried out on the 1962 replica of Europe's first commercially successful passenger steamboat.​

But nothing has been done.

Despite this, the council insists it 'is committed to finding a long-term solution to the deterioration of the Comet replica'.

However there is still no firm date as to when the survey report will finally be put before councillors.

A council spokesman said: "It [the replica] represents a symbol of Inverclyde's maritime history and has pride of place in Port Glasgow town centre.

"But there is no doubt that it has fallen into a state of disrepair and needs significant repair work.

"We hope we can bring it back to good order to continue to showcase our strong maritime heritage.

"To get there we have commissioned a survey into its condition which was thorough and detailed and which we received back in November.

"We were examining the findings and its implications when the work was put on hold at the beginning of the year as the coronavirus pandemic struck.

"Residents will understand that any work on that project, including any ongoing repairs to the replica itself, while still extremely worthy, required to be put on hold while we focussed our resources on activity that protected people and we delivered essential services to our community.

"As we move towards further easing of lockdown and wider community recovery, projects including the future of the Comet replica, will be re-activated.

"While we cannot put a firm date on that, we are currently working towards the environment and regeneration committee which is expected to take place in September.

"That entirely depends on how we move through the recovery phases and that we are able to successfully free up time from frontline essential services to pick up projects like this."

A councillor fighting to save the Comet replica says it may have already reached the 'point of no return' and that a complete replacement may have to be commissioned by the council.

Councillor McKenzie, pictured, said: "It is clear for all to see that the ship has suffered from the lack of a continual maintenance plan over the years and has now got to perhaps the point of no return."