MP questions Suffolk council leader’s role in £500,000 deal for A11 roundabout

21st March 2017

An MP has questioned the role of a Suffolk council leader in securing £500,000 of taxpayers’ money to develop the Fiveways roundabout on the A11.

Concerns were raised by North East Cambridgeshire MP Steve Barclay about leader of Forest Heath Council James Waters, who also represents Mildenhall on Suffolk County Council.

Mr Barclay set out his concerns in a report to government spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO).

His allegations centre on the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) in Cambridgeshire, called Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough (GCGP), which is given millions of pounds a year of taxpayers’ cash to kick start economic growth in the region.

But the MP’s report, which is being investigated by the NAO, also raises concerns about how the Norfolk and Suffolk LEP, called New Anglia, loaned £500,000 to a company called Pigeon to develop the Fiveways roundabout.

Mr Barclay outlined in his report to the NAO how Cllr Waters, a board member of the GCGP, had a business interest with Pigeon as the Waters family had submitted a joint planning application with Pigeon in 2014 to build 138 homes in the village of West Row, in land owned by the Waters’ family.

The building firm of the GCGP’s chairman, called Chalcroft Construction, was then contracted by Pigeon to complete the Fiveways building work.

MORE: Where New Anglia spent £37m of taxpayers’ cash in Norfolk and Suffolk

New Anglia LEP responded to Mr Barclay’s concerns by stating that Cllr Waters played no part in helping Pigeon secure the £500,000 loan, which has now been fully repaid, and was not at any LEP meetings where the loan was discussed. This point was also stressed by Cllr Waters.

New Anglia also said it played no part in appointing Chalcroft to carry out work on the site.

But Mr Barclay questioned why, if Cllr Waters played no part in securing the funding, he was quoted in a New Anglia press release from December 2014 announcing the loan, stating: “Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury played an active role in working with Pigeon and New Anglia LEP to secure the funding”.

A spokesman for the LEP said it was officers from Forest Heath Council and St Edmundsbury Council who Cllr Waters was referring to and who helped promote the scheme.

A spokesman for Forest Heath Council said: “Councillor Waters was simply quoted in the news release in his capacity as leader, representing the work as the authority as a whole.”