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‘Whitewash’: Decision to end investigation into business centre slammed

PUBLISHED: 16:10 30 June 2020 | UPDATED: 16:30 30 June 2020

West Norfolk Council will hope the latest report will draw a line under the KLIC building controversy, but opposition councillors say there are still questions which need answering. Picture: Matthew Usher.

West Norfolk Council will hope the latest report will draw a line under the KLIC building controversy, but opposition councillors say there are still questions which need answering. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2016

Opposition politicians have hit out at a council’s decision to end a probe into a controversial business hub.

The opening of the KLIC building in 2016. A council loan to the enterprise agency which built it has caused controversy. Picture: Matthew Usher.The opening of the KLIC building in 2016. A council loan to the enterprise agency which built it has caused controversy. Picture: Matthew Usher.

At a King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Council meeting on Tuesday, one councillor described the findings of an independent investigation into the business centre as a “whitewash”.

Investigator Alison Lowton was meant to examine how the council loaned £2.75m to enterprise agency NWES to build the King’s Lynn Innovation Centre (KLIC).

NWES defaulted on the loan in 2018 and previous investigations found conflicts of interest in the project.

But Mrs Lowton ended her investigation after just a few days, stating it was not needed because the council had done such a good job investigating the matter themselves.

Alison Lowton said she did not need to investigate the KLIC any further. Photo: King's Lynn and West Norfolk CouncilAlison Lowton said she did not need to investigate the KLIC any further. Photo: King's Lynn and West Norfolk Council

She told the council’s cabinet: “I have done many investigations and I can’t think of one where I have recommended not going ahead.”

Mrs Lowton said she would not have been able to uncover anything that a previous investigation by a cross-party group of councillors had not.

But some of those councillors criticised Mrs Lowton’s decision.

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Councillor Alun Ryves, independent, said there were outstanding issues which they had expected Mrs Lowton to explore.

Councillor Alexandra Kemp, independent, added the investigation should have looked at the relationship between the council and NWES. She said the cross-party working group should now meet again and finish the work.

But council leader, Brian Long, Conservative, said there was no point continuing to “pick at a sore” as it would never heal.

Independent councillor Charles Joyce responded that a sore would also never heal if it was still infected.

He called the report a “whitewash”.

Independent Jim Moriarty said Mrs Lowton’s report had not fulfilled the purpose the investigation.

He said it would damage the reputation of the council if the work was not completed.

Mr Long said the council had learned from the mistakes of the KLIC and the building was now fulfilling its function.

The Conservative cabinet voted to recommend the findings of Mrs Lowton’s report to the council.


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