King’s Lynn construction boss accused by MP of cover-up over land deal
- Credit: Archant
The boss of a Norfolk construction firm has been accused of a cover-up after refusing to give MPs details about a deal to develop land funded by taxpayers.
Chairman and shareholder of Chalcroft Construction, Mark Reeve, was also the chairman of a local enterprise partnership (LEP) which gets tens of millions of pounds from the government a year to power economic growth in the region.
But while he was chair of the Greater Cambridgeshire and Greater Peterborough LEP, King's Lynn firm Chalcroft signed a £20m deal with a fresh produce firm to build them a new HQ on part of the enterprise zone at Alconbury Weald.
The LEP, meanwhile, used more than £10m of public money to develop that enterprise zone near Huntingdonshire.
Called before the Public Accounts Committee on Monday, Mr Reeve was asked by MPs when Chalcroft signed the deal.
'It's a private matter,' he replied. 'It is not relevant and there was no conflict of interest.'
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But PAC chair Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said: 'It's not a private matter at all.'
He asked the question again and Mr Reeve refused to answer again saying the matter had been dealt with by the LEP.
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Sir Geoffrey said: 'I would say it has not been dealt with and therefore you are covering it up.'
Gillian Beasley, chief executive of Cambridgeshire County Council, whose role was to monitor the LEP, appeared alongside Mr Reeve to answer the MPs' questions.
She also told MPs she did not know the date the Chalcroft contract was signed.
Mrs Beasley said when the enterprise zone was discussed by the LEP board there was no financial benefit to Mr Reeve.
But Sir Geoffrey said: 'If Mr Reeve's company was benefiting from the infrastructure that the LEP was putting money into, there must have been a disclosable financial interest.'
But Mrs Beasley said there was not at that time.
Concerns about transparency have dogged the LEP since last January when North East Cambridgeshire MP Stephen Barclay raised allegations about the way it was being run. That was investigated by the National Audit Office.
The LEP is now being scrapped and replaced with a new business board in Cambridgeshire.