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Councillor says inquiry into King's Lynn business hub must proceed to 'put issues to bed once and for all’

A councillor has said the issues surrounding the King's Lynn Innovation Centre (KLIC) building "will not be put to bed" unless an inquiry is carried out.

It comes after an independent investigator found there would be “no useful purpose” in further investigation in a recent report into the matter.

On Tuesday, West Norfolk Council’s cabinet meeting heard from Alison Lowton, who was appointed by the authority to conduct the probe into KLIC – after its then operator NWES failed to repay £2.75m in loans.

The King's Lynn Innovation Centre on Nar Ouse Way.. (34663016)
The King's Lynn Innovation Centre on Nar Ouse Way.. (34663016)

She said her recommendation that the council take no further action was an unusual one.

“I’ve done many investigations and reviews and I can’t think of another one where I’ve recommended not going ahead,” Ms Lowton added.

“The recommendations I have seen if implemented provide significant assurance for the future. One of my concerns in pursuing an inquiry was that it would in effect undermine the council’s own good work in this area, because it’s saying ‘well actually I don’t think it’s good enough and I’m going to go ahead and see that I do better’, and I don’t believe that I could.”

Ms Lowton said another concern would be regarding memory and access to further information. She said she would have “no authority” to get past councillors and directors to speak to her, and it was “unclear” that anything new would be learned from an inquiry.

But councillor Tom Ryves, who was a member of the cross-party working group set up to compile a report into what went wrong, said he was “a little disappointed” as he felt the independent review had not taken the group’s work any further.

“I think that if we were not to proceed any further we would be doing a huge disservice to KLIC itself,” he added. “We need absolute transparency and we need to be able to put this thing to bed once and for all.”

Alexandra Kemp, who was also a member of the working group, said she felt the solution would be to bring the matter back to the group to look at certain issues – including speaking to NWES and past directors.

“We are not saying that anything wrong was done, we are simply saying it could have been done in a better way,” she said.

But council leader Brian Long said: “There were mistakes made by the council in the way that it worked, we admit to those, we know about those, it’s all well documented.

“It’s been dealt with again and again. What this report is saying is we need to learn from those and move on.”

Cabinet members agreed to take Ms Lowton’s recommendation forward to full council. The next full council meeting will be held next Thursday, July 9.

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