Labour calls for special meeting with Northampton Borough Council over Cobblers £10.25m loan deal

The unfinished East Stand at Northampton Town
The unfinished East Stand at Northampton Town

Labour councillors are calling for a special meeting of Northampton Borough Council after last week’s demand for Cobblers to pay back £10.25 million in three weeks.

Opposition members say they want reassurances about the deal and have questioned why there was confusion over whether the loan repayments were being met.

Library picture

Library picture

Last week, the Chronicle & Echo exclusively revealed that Northampton Town had been given 21 days to pay back the outstanding amount of the loan given to Cobblers to pay for the redevelopment of its East Stand and other ground improvements. The East Stand remains unfinished and negotiations are ongoing with an unnamed Indian consortium as potential new owners.

Labour’s deputy leader, Councillor Gareth Eales (Spencer), said: “Many fans of the football club are deeply concerned about this issue and the long-term future of the Cobblers. Equally many members of the Northampton public would like answers about the sizeable loan made to the Football Club by the Borough Council and want reassurance.

“Something does not appear right about this episode, especially as councillors were advised recently that all loan payments were up to date, which clearly wasn’t the case.”

In a statement issued last week, leader of Northampton Borough Council, Councillor Mary Markham said: “This is a financial contract and we wouldn’t intend to give a running commentary on it. Opposition councillors have been kept informed throughout and had they requested further information on the status of repayments they would’ve been updated in confidence.

The unfinished East Stand at Northampton Town

The unfinished East Stand at Northampton Town

“However, at the council meeting on Monday [last week] Labour Councillor Les Marriott stated clearly that he did not want to ask any questions regarding the repayments on the loan. His other questions relating to Northampton Town Football Club were answered fully and he accepted the responses.”

Councillor said the meeting would not be held until after the 21-day deadline had passed.

“Despite the need for answers, the Labour Group do not wish to knee-jerk and will acknowledge the deadline given by the administration to NTFC.

“Therefore we will call the special meeting to take place sometime week commencing October 19, just after the deadline has passed. We can then have a dedicated discussion and debate at that opportune time, with members of the public able to address council,” he said.

Councillor Eales also expressed concern and disdain at former council leader and now Northampton South MP David Mackintosh’s offer of facilitating some mediation between the two parties.

Councillor Eales said: “Most people would find that suggestion somewhat inappropriate, given Mr Mackintosh’s involvement in the loan arrangement in the first place, the terms of which are now being openly questioned for transparency and disclosure.

“This is not a time for wannabe heroes, Mr Mackintosh should take a step back, let his former colleagues do their jobs and perhaps wait to explain his own involvement at a potential future inquiry, which we know members of the public are already calling for”.

Speaking last week, Mr Mackintosh said: “As someone who was involved in this process from the beginning but hasn’t been for some months, I would be happy to mediate between the borough council and the football club if it would help resolve the situation.”