Go-ahead for investigation into how council lost £1m

The King's Lynn Innovation Centre. Picture: Ian Burt

The King's Lynn Innovation Centre. Picture: Ian Burt

An investigation can now get under way into how a council lost almost £1m in loans to an enterprise centre.

West Norfolk councillors tonight voted for an independent investigation into the authority's financial relationship with Norfolk and Waveney Enterprise Services (NWES).

The council loaned the agency £2.75m towards the cost of building the King's Lynn Innovation Centre (KLIC).

But when NWES defaulted on the loan in November it repossessed the building and found it was worth only £1.78m.

Tonight's full council meeting passed a recommendation from its ruling cabinet for an independent inquiry into its partnership with NWES, its subsidiary companies and those with common shareholders or directors, regarding the contract to build and run the KLIC.

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As the meeting got under way, former councillor Alistair Beales asked how former councillors and officers might be involved.

Council leader Brian Long said the terms of reference were a matter for the chair of the inquiry. He added the chair would not have the power to summon people so their involvement would depend on their willingness to be involved. Mr Beales said he was "willing but reluctant" to do so.

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When the motion came to be debated, Mr Long said councillors unanimously believed there should be an inquiry into the council's arrangements with NWES and the KLIC building. He said he hoped councillors would vote for it.

Labour councillor Charles Joyce said people wanted to know where the money went.

Independent Jim Moriarty said he would be voting for the recommendation. He said if the Local Government Association - which is proposing candidates to chair the inquiry - thought there was going to be a cover-up, it would not take part.

Councillors voted almost unanimously in favour. There were 52 in favour, one against and one abstention.

The investigation is expected to cost £40,000. Councillors have been told the authority can not reclaim the cost from NWES.

Leaders of the three main political groups on the council will now choose who will chair the investigation, from a shortlist nominated by the LGA.

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