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Investigation into King's Lynn business hub loss 'an expensive learning process'

The leader of a borough council, which has overseen a Lynn business hub becoming around £1 million less than the amount loaned to it, has described the events as an "expensive learning process."

Brian Long said these words as councillors agreed to an independent investigation into the King’s Lynn Innovation Centre (KLIC) during a cabinet meeting in the Town Hall this evening.

The issue has been scrutinised since the building's operator, the Norfolk and Waveney Enterprise Services (NWES), failed to repay loans worth £2.75 million to the council. The loans were meant to be paid last November after the council had contributed nearly £5 million into the building between 2012 and 2016.

Chief executive of the borough council, Ray Harding, suggested a "cross-political group" should meet together in order to employ a person to lead the investigation.

It is estimated the cost involved with such a process will be up to £1,000 per day.

Mr Harding said this was a "necessary" price to pay for a well-qualified individual, judging by the quality of the CVs reviewed so far.

Labour councillor Charles Joyce said the "big question" is where did the money loaned to NWES go.

"When I look at this I see it as something like the burglar asking the police to investigate the crime," Mr Joyce said.

"It is a building worth £2 million and the council paid in £5 million. I know anyone can make a mistake when making home decorations or anything, but this is such a big gap. So where did the money go and who is responsible?"

King's Lynn Innovation Centre (KLIC) building at the Nar Ouse regeneration area of South Lynn
King's Lynn Innovation Centre (KLIC) building at the Nar Ouse regeneration area of South Lynn

Mr Joyce added that those leading the investigation should not have stood on the council at the time of the payments being made.

Conservative Brian Long, Labour councillor John Collop and Independent councillor Jim Moriarty will recommend the chairman of the inquiry.

The individual will be selected from a Local Government Association shortlist.

Later in the cabinet meeting, Mr Long said the council are putting £1.3 million more extra funds into the council's reserve.

He said this is "a demonstration of our key financial management."

"We need savings over a period of time and to be entrepreneurial as a council," Mr Long continued. "As a council we need to be making a difference to people in West Norfolk's lives.

"Money is being put aside for a reason to provide services for the people."

A special board will also be set up to oversee major developments in the borough after councillors agreed to the proposal this evening.

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