MPs on Public Accounts Committee grill former LEP chairman Mark Reeve and accuse him of ‘cover up’ over £20m factory contract

MMUK moves into Alconbury Weald

MMUK moves into Alconbury Weald - Credit: Archant

MPs accused Mark Reeve- who quit in December as chairman of the Greater Cambridgeshire Greater Cambridgeshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) – of a “cover up” over a £20 million factory move from Chatteris to Alconbury.

Mr Reeve, who is also chairman of Chalfont Construction of King’s Lynn, was appearing before the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) following publication of a report by the National Audit Office.

Their report threw into doubt governance and followed a sustained campaign by MP Steve Barclay to expose transparency issues and accountability at the publicly funded LEP.

Mr Reeve’s company won the contract to build a new HQ for MMUK and MM Flowers of Chatteris – where they employed up to 400 workers- to a £20million, 220,000 sq ft premises at Alconbury with business rates incentives for the first five years.

MP Steve Barclay questioned the propriety of the LEP creating circumstances in which the move has happened as they had ploughed more than £10million of public money to develop an enterprise zone at Alconbury Weald, a former RAF base near Huntingdon.

Called before the Public Accounts Committee on Monday, Mr Reeve was asked by MPs when Chalcroft signed the deal.

“It’s a private matter,” he replied. “It is not relevant and there was no conflict of interest.”

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But PAC chair Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said: “It’s not a private matter at all.”

He asked the question again and Mr Reeve refused to answer again saying the matter had been dealt with by the LEP.

Sir Geoffrey said: “I would say it has not been dealt with and therefore you are covering it up.”

Gillian Beasley, chief executive of Cambridgeshire County Council, whose role was to monitor the LEP, appeared alongside Mr Reeve to answer the MPs’ questions.

She said she did not know the date the Chalcroft contract was signed.

Mrs Beasley said when the enterprise zone was discussed by the LEP board there was no financial benefit to Mr Reeve.

But Sir Geoffrey said: “If Mr Reeve’s company was benefiting from the infrastructure that the LEP was putting money into, there must have been a disclosable financial interest.”

But Mrs Beasley said there was not at that time.

Mr Barclay said: “At the time the LEP said my concerns where ‘wholly inaccurate and defamatory’.

“The National Auditor Office report, the investigation by the Department for Local Governance, and now the hearing of the cross party Public Accounts Committee, have all supported the concerns I expressed over a year ago regarding the LEP’s weak governance”.