Call for inquiry into £2.75m innovation centre loan default

Calls for an independent inquiry into West Norfolk Council's relationship with Norfolk and Waveney E

Calls for an independent inquiry into West Norfolk Council's relationship with Norfolk and Waveney Enterprise services, after the authority repossessed King's Lynn Innovation Centre over an unpaid £2.75m loan, was turned down last night Picture: Matthew Usher.

A councillor is calling for a full independent inquiry into the 'financial relationship' between West Norfolk council and an enterprise agency.

The council repossessed the King's Lynn Innovation Centre (KLIC) in December, after Norfolk and Waveney Enterprise Services (NWES) defaulted on a £2.75m loan.

Labour councillor Charles Joyce believes there should now be an independent inquiry into what went on.

He has tabled a motion calling for an investigation, which will be discussed at Thursday night's full council meeting.

It states: 'That this council establish an independent inquiry into the partnership of Norfolk and Waveney Enterprise Services, and its subsidiary companies, regarding the award of, administration of and financial relationship with the Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk.

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'To ensure the impartiality and independence of the inquiry the chair and personnel of such an inquiry be chosen by an outside body, notably the Local Government Association to report back to the full council no later than February 28, 2019.'

Labour holds just eight of the 62 seats on the council, which the 46-strong Conservative group controls.

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Mr Joyce admitted the chances of it being passed were slim. But he added: 'I can't see any defence for the way the administration has acted - £2.75m at least has gone from the council's budget and they've got a building for it.'

In a report to the same meeting Alistair Beales, the council's cabinet member for corporate projects, said: 'The commercial process continues to arrive at the best policy and outcome at the KLIC building.

'The building is now within [the council's] freehold ownership, agreement has been reached upon repayment of interest on the monies loaned and efforts continue to conclude arrangements with NWES and ensure the best outcome for the taxpayer and the continued smooth running of the KLIC for the benefit of existing tenants and the many others that use the KLIC building.

'KLIC is currently 94pc occupied and since opening in June 2016, has supported 47 tenant companies, employing over 100 people on the site, with a gross rent roll of circa £300K per annum.'

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