12 August: Campaigners and councillors in Norfolk have asked the Audit Commission to investigate council money spent on a private development linked with a £120m ring road project.
Local councillors Andrew Boswell and Denise Carlo have questioned whether officers at Norfolk County Council were authorised to spend £170,000 of public money on planning costs that benefitted Ifield Estates Ltd, without first getting formal authorisation from elected councillors.
The 'Postwick Hub' gyratory is a key element of plans for a Norwich Northern Distributor Route (NDR), linking it with nearby roads. The council have always insisted it is a standalone project, based on proposals for Ifield Estates’ new business park next to the junction. This makes planning approval for the hub a key milestone in the progress of the NDR, helping the council towards its goal of attracting £68m of funding from the Department for Transport later this year.
And there could be even more from Hubgate soon. The two councillors are also asking why officer delegated powers have been used to spend £100,000 re-routing communications cables at the Postwick site, despite doubts that the full scheme will ever be funded.
Denise Carlo is spokesperson for the Norwich and Norfolk Transport Action Group. She says: "Ifield Estates Ltd stands to make substantial profits from outline planning permission on the back of public funds. Norfolk should stop squandering millions of pounds of public money on Postwick Hub and a NDR whilst cutting vital public services."
Andrew Boswell appeared on BBC Radio Norfolk on Thursday to talk about the issue and said: "It's a very serious matter of public money possibly being misspent. There are good reasons for delegating powers to council officers… but what I think the Norfolk taxpayers will think about this issue is that those delegated powers have gone too far."
Listen again here, 1 hr 7 mins into the programme: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/p00jbn88 (available until 17 August)