Council to spend another £250,000 on controversial enterprise centre

Titan the Robot helps offically open the new KLIC building in King's Lynn. Picture: Matthew Usher.

King's Lynn Innovation Centre was opened off the A47 in 2016 - Credit: Matthew Usher

A council is set to invest another £250,000 in a business centre which left it £1m out of pocket when an enterprise agency could not repay the money it was loaned to built it.

West Norfolk council's ruling cabinet meets on Tuesday to discuss its financial plan for the next five years.

It warns future income is difficult to predict because of uncertainties caused by the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit.

The document sets out proposed expenditure and investments, which include extending the King's Lynn Innovation Centre (KLIC).

A report to councillors says: "This project is to carry out further technical studies to bring forward the delivery of up to 4,800 square feet of new ‘move on’ space for the King’s Lynn Innovation Centre, together with associated car parking for approximately 270 spaces to serve the move on centre, the original KLIC building and the wider Enterprise Zone.

"This scheme has been added to the capital programme with a budget of £250,000 fully funded by the Norfolk Strategic Fund."

The strategic fund is  £7.7m war chest set up last year by Norfolk's councils, who each donated £1m to fund the county's recovery from Covid.

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Some £5m of public money was given to a group called Norfolk and Waveney Enterprise Services (NWES) to build the KLIC, which opened in 2016.

Between 2012 and 2016 the council gave NWES £2.75m in loans for the building, which it subsequently defaulted on. When the council repossessed the site, it emerged it was worth £1.8m. An enquiry into the affair was closed in October.

The council has insisted the building is a success because it is near capacity.

The council's cabinet meets on Tuesday to discus whether to recommend the five year plan to the full council.

The 217-page report sets out a budget of £21,731,380 for the coming financial year.

It says council tax for the benchmark Band D property band is expected to increase by £5 a year over the next five years. It also warns the council's reserves will be at their minimum level by 2024 - 25, leaving it facing a £4m annual shortfall after that.