‘Fiasco’ - row as council vote to close inquiry into ‘inappropriate’ innovation centre loan
PUBLISHED: 19:38 08 October 2020
A council voted to close a probe into losses at a £6m West Norfolk business hub, despite opposition politicians branding the issue a “fiasco”.
King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council (KLWNBC) has voted to accept the findings of a lawyer who was asked to look into what went wrong with the King’s Lynn Innovation Centre (KLIC).
Solicitor Alison Lowton ended her investigation early after saying it was not needed as the council had done such a good job investigating the issue itself.
The authority lent £2.75m of public money to enterprise agency NWES to construct the building.
But the firm defaulted on the loan leaving the council with the building which had cost £6m of public money to build, but worth only £2.4m, surveyors found.
An internal report in February found “many weaknesses” and said the loan was “inappropriate”.
At a cabinet meeting in June, councillors were told Ms Lowton’s findings, and at a special full council meeting held on Thursday, October 8, councillors debated whether to accept her report.
Opposition councillors called for a full investigation into KLIC.
Green Party councillor Michael de Whalley called the issue “the KLIC fiasco” and said: “To do anything less risks bringing this council into disrepute.”
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And Labour councillor Jo Rust added: “This building could be a jewel in the crown of King’s Lynn.
“Nobody is going to look at the KLIC building and feel satisfied.”
Labour councillor Charles Joyce added: “No sore will heal until the corruption is dug out of it. Where did the money go? Who are the guilty men and women?”
Labour group leader John Collop added: “I’m very upset this hasn’t been taken seriously.”
But Conservative councillor Graham Middleton said: “No one’s trying to hide behind the facts that something’s gone wrong. We have put plans in place to rectify.”
Council leader Brian Long said: “Until someone’s put in the stocks on the Tuesday Market Place we won’t have concluded this.”
He said “conspiracy theorists” wanting an inquiry should contact fraud teams with evidence.
He added: “If they think there’s wrongdoing there is a body that can investigate called the police - I would direct them to them. Put up or shut up, is what I would say.”
The council voted to accept the report and close the inquiry, with 25 votes in favour, 23 votes against and 2 abstentions.
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