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Legal advice being sought over committee's KLIC question mark

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A cross-party working group investigation will continue into the handling of a Lynn business hub despite a legal ruling delaying the process.

Last week, members of West Norfolk Council's audit committee agreed to take legal advice after an undisclosed question mark was raised regarding the committee's previous terms of reference for the King’s Lynn Innovation Centre [KLIC] working group.

The council's deputy monitoring officer Noel Doran said there was uncertainty and confusion over whether a decision taken by the audit committee was within their power when looking back through the minutes of their meeting in July.

The King's Lynn Innovation Centre on Nar Ouse Way. Picture: Ian Burt
The King's Lynn Innovation Centre on Nar Ouse Way. Picture: Ian Burt

The audit committee had voted for the cross-party working group of councillors to continue its investigation into KLIC by four votes to two in July.

Committee chairwoman Angie Dickinson said this new delay would not negate the ongoing work taking place into KLIC, and suggested the committee should continue as much as they can whilst the legal advice is sought.

But Charles Joyce questioned why it had taken five months for the officer to raise a question mark, and Michael de Whalley sought clarification as he felt the officer's claims were unjustifiable.

Mrs Dickinson said it was standard procedure for the monitoring officer to revisit the minutes, but she could not explain the exact reason for the query raised as she was "not au fait" with it herself.

Independent councillor Alex Kemp was the only member not to vote in favour of the legal advice as she felt she could not vote on a proposal which she described as invalid and unclear.

Ms Kemp said: "What problems can there be? It's the members who decide. What does it look life if we agree with the monitoring officer and not what the committee said?"

She also emphasised the committee should continue its investigation into why KLIC's operator NWES failed to repay £2.75 million in loans.

Her comments come after councillors narrowly backed the conclusion of the independent investigator in October when she said there was no need for her to examine the affairs of KLIC.

Ms Kemp said: "I would like to ask the monitoring officer on what grounds he thinks this committee does not have the powers to continue with the KLIC investigation because the public is out there and wants to know the answers.

"The external investigator actually did not do the job. She was charging the council, I think, £1,000 a day, a lot of money anyway. We have been charging the council nothing at all.

"We met for months, we have worked so hard and we are a very good deal for the taxpayer and we are absolutely committed to helping the council improve its procedures which is, of course, the annual governance statement.

"We are willing, we are the heroic band willing to finish this and there is no reason at all why we should not do it."

Vivienne Spikings' proposal to continue agreed KLIC items and wait for legal counsel for the remaining work was seconded by Lesley Bambridge and carried by the committee.

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