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Council 'dismissed' thousands of pounds in costs for businessmen behind controversial centre

PUBLISHED: 06:09 03 September 2019 | UPDATED: 11:21 03 September 2019

John Balch (left) and Kevin Horne were directors of enterprise agency Nwes when King's Lynn and West Norfolk Council rejected their cost claims. Photo: Archant

John Balch (left) and Kevin Horne were directors of enterprise agency Nwes when King's Lynn and West Norfolk Council rejected their cost claims. Photo: Archant

Archant

A council rejected claims for tens of thousands of pounds in costs from two businessmen working on a controversial project.

The King's Lynn Innovation Centre (KLIC) turf-cutting ceremony. Picture: Ian BurtThe King's Lynn Innovation Centre (KLIC) turf-cutting ceremony. Picture: Ian Burt

Kings Lynn and West Norfolk Council said it "dismissed" £63,000 in cost claims for Kevin Horne and John Balch who were the directors of enterprise agency Nwes, which was paid millions of pounds to build a business centre for the authority.

The council said the claims had nothing to do with the building work, while Mr Horne and Mr Balch said it was "normal" to submit invoices so they could draw down grant funding from the council for the project.

They said they did not know when they submitted the invoices, from 2013 to 2015, that they would not be eligible for the funding.

The business centre, called the KLIC, opened in 2016 and the council said it had been a success.

The then leader of King's Lynn and West Norfolk Council, Nick Daubney looking at the KLIC brochure with John Balch in 2016. Picture: Matthew Usher.The then leader of King's Lynn and West Norfolk Council, Nick Daubney looking at the KLIC brochure with John Balch in 2016. Picture: Matthew Usher.

But it is bringing in external investigators to look at the relationships between those behind the project after Nwes failed to pay back £2.75m which the council loaned it to build the KLIC.

Invoices sent by Nwes to the council, obtained by this newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act, show costs of £46,000 for Mr Balch and £17,000 for Mr Horne for their work.

A council spokesman said: "These costs were dismissed by us as they did not relate to the KLIC building or its construction.

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"We released loan monies to Nwes on receipt of their invoices.

"As with all invoices we receive, we check that they are accurate and challenge anything that is not correct."

In response the men said: "All Nwes employee time was paid for by Nwes from its own funds.

"John Balch and Kevin Horne - along with other relevant members of staff of Nwes - provided time sheets and statements showing their time spent on the project and a value to that time - as is normal in all such projects."

The invoices also show a company Mr Balch was a majority shareholder and managing director of, called Nautilus Associates, was paid around £200,000 by Nwes for managing the KLIC project.

A council report earlier this year revealed that council officers had raised conflict of interest concerns about Nautilus' involvement, but these were not addressed. Mr Horne and Mr Balch denied there was a conflict of interest.

See also: Struggling enterprise agency Nwes paid public cash to directors' firms

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