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Council that lost £500k on EcoCube admits ‘fault line’ ran through project

PUBLISHED: 19:36 30 June 2020 | UPDATED: 19:36 30 June 2020

The EcoCube. Picture: Denise Bradley

The EcoCube. Picture: Denise Bradley

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A Norfolk council that gave away the lease of a £500,000 EcoCube for nothing has admitted a “fault line” ran through the project.

Chris Hill, centre, Broadland Council's head of economic development, with Kevin Heaton, right, director of Tilia Properties, and Shaun Catterall, Tilia contracts manager, pictured at the EcoCube. Picture: Denise BradleyChris Hill, centre, Broadland Council's head of economic development, with Kevin Heaton, right, director of Tilia Properties, and Shaun Catterall, Tilia contracts manager, pictured at the EcoCube. Picture: Denise Bradley

Broadland Council said processes were in place to ensure mistakes could not be repeated and the loss “should never have happened”.

The council spent £340,000 leasing The Cube, an eco-centre in Rackheath, in 2012 with a further £160,000 spent on associated costs.

In 2017 it was handed over to the firm which built it - for nothing.

READ MORE: Revealed: How council gave away £500,000 eco-centre for free

But last year the councillor responsible for the decision refused to appear before an investigatory panel, despite his silence being branded a “scandal”.

Now Stuart Clancy, former cabinet member for economic development, has appeared before the reconvened panel - which concluded no more action should be taken over the loss of the lease.

A report on the findings said the panel met on March 10, 2020 and heard Mr Clancy was confident in advice given to him by officers.

A member of the panel said the project was “suboptimal” but that “lessons had been learned”.

READ MORE: Council chiefs in dark over ‘eco’ building deal which could have saved taxpayers thousands

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It stated: “The panel took the view that there was a fault line that ran through the project.”

It was thought the property would be owned by the council when agreeing the lease, but the panel was confident it had identified the governance issue which had led to this.

At a meeting of the council’s scrutiny committee, held on Tuesday, June 30, Grant Nurden, chair of the panel, said: “No further action was needed.”

But Sue Catchpole, Liberal Democrat councillor for Aylsham, said: “When that councillor was asked if he had his time again would he do the same thing again or would he do things differently, he was reassuring us he would do differently.

READ MORE: ‘Inadequate’: Report slams council’s failings over £500k eco-centre

“I just felt that was missing from this report.”

Stuart Beadle, Liberal Democrat member for Reepham, said: “I’m amazed that it ever could happen. There was a fault line that ran through the project and a lack of governance that allowed this failure to happen.”

Peter Bulman, the Conservative member for Great Witchingham, added: “I don’t see any purpose in going over old ground.”

And monitoring officer Emma Hodds said: “There were a raft of recommendations that came out and are part of processes now.

“I completely agree this should not have happened when it did but these are in place now.”

The committee unanimously voted to note the report’s findings.

READ MORE: Councillor’s silence over £500,000 eco-centre loss branded ‘a scandal’


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