West Norfolk Council accepts KLIC inquiry report, despite 'cover-up' accusations
Councillors have narrowly backed the conclusion of an independent investigator who said there was no need for her to examine the affairs of a Lynn business hub.
A special West Norfolk Council meeting this afternoon heard claims of a cover-up and questions being left unanswered in relation to the King's Lynn Innovation Centre (KLIC).
But members voted 25 to 23, with two abstentions, to accept the report, after critics were told to "put up or shut up."
The session was asked to accept the findings of Alison Lowton, a solicitor appointed to carry out an external review of the authority's handling of the centre's development.
Earlier this year , she told council chiefs that no "useful purpose" would be served by her examining the issue, as it had already been comprehensively reviewed by a cross-party working group of councillors .
Her findings were backed by the authority's ruling cabinet in June.
But Labour's Charles Joyce, a long-standing advocate of an external review, said the questions of who was responsible for what went wrong and what happened to the money invested in the project.
He told members: "We will find out who the guilty men and women are who vote to shut down an inquiry.
"They're the guilty men and women who vote to cover this up."
However, Ms Lowton's report said there was "little to be gained" from continued investigation once a council had approved recommendations to ensure the mistakes were not repeated, unless there was evidence of wrongdoing.
Council leader Brian Long said no proof had been provided to support allegations of wrongdoing and Ms Lowton had been able to access all of the material held by the authority.
He said: "If there is anything more than that, beyond the remit of what this council can investigate, then it needs to be a police matter.
"Go to the police. Put up or shut up is what I'll be saying."
Earlier in the debate, former Independent group leader Jim Moriarty, who was involved in the process of appointing Ms Lowton alongside Mr Long and Labour leader John Collop after that vote, argued the probe had not been completed as agreed.
The council had previously voted in favour of an independent inquiry in March 2019.
Tom Ryves, who served on the cross-party panel, said they had believed their work was part of a broader process that would be concluded by an external review.
He said the building was an asset which risked being "tainted" if that process wasn't completed.
And another working group member, Alexandra Kemp added: "The job must be finished. We have a duty to the taxpayer."
But Conservative backbencher Stuart Dark said he was concerned that councillors who were unhappy with the report were being guided by a "pre-determined view" of the affair.
Cabinet member Graham Middleton added: "There has to come a point where we have had an independent investigation and the findings are in this report. There has been a problem. Nobody is trying to hide that."