New information on Sixfields loan saga is ‘coming to light every day’, claims man leading internal review

Northampton Borough Council loaned the Cobblers �10.25 million to revamp Sixfields, but the work was never completed.
Northampton Borough Council loaned the Cobblers �10.25 million to revamp Sixfields, but the work was never completed.

New information about the decision to loan Northampton Town football Club £10.25 million to develop Sixfields is coming to light “every day”, according to the firm carrying out an internal investigation into the affair.

Back in January auditors Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC) launched an audit of Northampton Borough Council to assess whether it followed the correct policies and procedures in loaning Cobblers the money back in 2013 and handing the money over in stages over the following year.

Last night, the borough council’s audit committee heard an update on the investigation from PWC senior manager Chris Dickens.

While he was not able to reveal any of the firm’s findings so far - or give a definite timescale for completing the report - he said the council had provided PWC with a “virtual data room” of information it is working through.

“We are working through a significant amount of information that has been made available to us,” he said.

“At this moment we are still working through the scope of the audit.

“We will be looking to provide a complete and report as soon as we are in a position to do so.

“There is still new information coming to light on a daily basis, so we are still working through that.”

The borough council loaned Northampton Town the £10.25 million throughout 2013 and 2014 to rebuild Sixfields Stadium. But the stadium builders were not paid for all the work done and the football club defaulted on the loan repayments.

Mr Dickens said the team of three auditors are getting close to submitting a fresh request for information with the council, though he could not say what for.

He said his team has a designated manager working on it “full time” and said they have been meeting with council officers on a regular basis.

However audit committee member Councillor Danielle Stone (Lab, Castle), asked whether PWC would be looking through private emails or correspondence between council members and officers throughout 2013 and 2014. Mr Dickens had previously said individual conduct fell outside the remit of his investigation.

Councillor Stone said: “There is a possible tension here between what the officers recommended and what the members (elected councillors) decided to do.

“It might not be for your investigation but I do think you can have all the policies and procedures in place, it is the interpretation that has gone wrong - or perhaps there has been a disagreement with the officer body and the member body.

“Is there a paper trail to demonstrate those decisions were taken in the right way?”

Mr Dickens did not fully rule this out, but said his team was being careful not to “compromise” the ongoing police investigation around possible financial mismanagement.

He said: “We are very conscious of internals (documents) or email trails that could lead to compromise the police investigation. We are working through the information the council has provided.”

Mr Dickens finished by saying he would hope to bring an update to the next audit committee meeting in two months’ time.

The audit committee also heard a brief update on how a second “external” investigation by KPMG is faring. This investigation is likely to have a broader scope and could look into issues surrounding council members’ and officers’ conduct.

Andrew Cardoza, for the firm, said he would not be providing regular detail to the audit committee as the investigation goes on.

But he said: “We meet with officers regularly and we have done that on a couple of occasions already. We have more meetings set up.”