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Struggling enterprise agency warns it may have to close over debt

Chief executive of Nwes, Jo Clarke, warned about the £2.75m debt the group has with King's Lynn Council over the KLIC building. Photo: BBC/Archant

Chief executive of Nwes, Jo Clarke, warned about the £2.75m debt the group has with King's Lynn Council over the KLIC building. Photo: BBC/Archant

BBC

The region's enterprise agency has warned it may not be able to carry on after months of controversy.

Nwes logoNwes logo

Norfolk and Waveney Enterprise Services (NWES), which supports new businesses, said in its latest accounts its future depended on coming to an agreement with a council over £2.75m of debt.

Nwes borrowed the money from King's Lynn and West Norfolk Council for a business centre called the KLIC but failed to pay it back.

The directors wrote: “Due to the current uncertainty as to what course of action the council might take to recover the loan amount... the directors have serious concerns around the pressures any future financial demands may place on the business.”

Nwes, which is publicly funded, has also had to refile its accounts for 2017 after a series of discrepancies were uncovered by its new auditors.

The accounts originally declared the group made a £48,000 profit, but this has been restated as a £3m loss after it emerged it had overvalued one of its properties by more than £3m.

Its income in 2017 was also £1m less than it previously claimed in its accounts, while tens of thousands of pounds were paid to groups linked to its directors which it also did not declare in the 2017 accounts.

The directors originally stated that Nwes had paid £310,000 to companies its directors had control over or an interest in, but the new accounts show £395,000 was paid.

Chief executive Kevin Horne and strategic director John Balch, left last year amid an investigation into the enterprise agency's finances. They said the new payments discovered did not relate to them but to other directors.

They added they had correctly declared all money paid to groups they had an interest in.

The accounts were signed by new chief executive Jo Clarke.

She refused to give details about the companies directors had an interest in which got the money.

She said: “Following an extensive audit process which has led to the restatement of certain of the 2016-17 figures, we are pleased that Nwes Accounts have now been filed.”

Mrs Clarke said in the latest accounts that Nwes shed staff and cut expenses last year. It made a loss of £440,000 in 2018 but the group said it would continue to support new businesses.

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