Watchdog to look at Landmark deal

IPSWICH: A full investigation into the controversial purchase of Landmark House on the edge of town looks set to be carried out.

Andrew Cann, who is the resource management spokesman for the official Liberal Democrat opposition, has written to Suffolk County Council’s audit committee chairman John Klashka demanding that the purchase is put on the next agenda of the committee.

The Labour group is likely to support calls for the committee to look at the purchase after our revelations earlier this week that a developer had quoted a figure below that which was reported to councillors at a cabinet meeting.

Mr Cann said today: “When I read the details that The Evening Star had obtained I was very concerned. This is clearly something we need to examine in detail.

“This is a huge land deal for the county council and the police authority and we need to be sure that we are getting the best possible deal.

“That would be true at any time – but when things are so difficult for local authorities it makes it even more important.”

Labour group leader Sandy Martin has already said he feels there is a case for the audit committee to examine the deal.

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Individual councillors can ask the audit committee to examine any deal they have concerns about and it is up to the committee to decide what to look at.

However if senior figures from both main opposition parties ask for an investigation it is difficult to see how those requests could be turned down.

On Monday the Evening Star revealed that a developer had offered to design and build a new office block on Whitehouse Road in Ipswich for less than �7million.

But when the proposal was discussed, in confidential session, by the county’s cabinet the cost of the “new build” option was put at �12m.

Landmark House is being bought for just under �4m, but the council is expecting it will cost about �7.5m to convert it into space that can be used as offices.

All the costs for the purchase of Landmark House are being split equally between the county council and police authority.

n Is the county careful enough about how it spends public money? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail