Council should come clean now

Prime Minister David Cameron speaks at the FT Global Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Conference 2011 at the Marriott Grosvenor Square hotel in London.

Prime Minister David Cameron speaks at the FT Global Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Conference 2011 at the Marriott Grosvenor Square hotel in London.

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Prime Minister David Cameron has backed a call from Corby MP Louise Mensch that a report into the overspend at the Cube should be made public.

It comes in the wake of suggestions the town’s civic hub could be more than £20m over budget, at least twice the £10m figure reported.

Mrs Mensch says she has been told the initial budget for the building was £21m, but the total spend could run to between £47m and £49m.

The ruling Labour group ordered the report on the overspend and has pledged to release a public version of it, but says it cannot be released in its current form.

In a question to Mr Cameron at Prime Minister’s Question Time yesterday, Mrs Mensch said: “Labour-controlled Corby Council is trying to suppress a report into the scandal at the Corby Cube. £20m of Corby people’s money has been wasted and now councillors are being threatened with disciplinary action if they blow the whistle.

“Does the Prime Minister agree the council should come clean with Corby people?”

Mr Cameron replied: “I absolutely agree with the Honourable Lady and she raises an important point.

“There are new proposals for total transparency in local Government that expenditure over £500 should be separately documented; that salaries, names, budgets and responsibilities of staff paid over £58,000 should all be published.

“We want the wind of transparency to go right through local Government, Corby included.”

Speaking to the Evening Telegraph, Mrs Mensch said: “I believe the real figure is £20m plus. I am informed the original budget was £21m and this increased to £35m. I am also informed the total spend on the Cube could wind up somewhere between £47m and £49m.

“If that is accurate it is £26m of Corby people’s money that has been overspent on one building.”

Mrs Mensch added it would be wrong to pin the blame on departing chief executive Chris Mallender. She said: “No one person can be responsible for waste of this magnitude.”

Corby Council leader Tom Beattie said: “Firstly I take issue with the MP saying Corby Council is trying to suppress the report.

“We have taken independent legal advice which says the report in its current form contains information that is commercially, financially and legally sensitive.

“We are very concerned about the overspend and it was us who set up the committee [to investigate] in the first place. We have given a guarantee that we will release a public version of the report.

“There is no scandal. I will be ensuring public money under my leadership will be properly spent.

“Louise has abused Parliamentary privilege to score political points. I think that is reprehensible.”

Cllr David Sims, leader of Corby’s Conservative group, said: “I am absolutely delighted that David Cameron is supporting transparency in local Government, particularly Corby.”