Northampton Borough Council’s chief executive failed over Sixfields loan, says leader, but he should not resign

The leader of Northampton Borough Council, Councillor Jonathan Nunn.

The leader of Northampton Borough Council, Councillor Jonathan Nunn.

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The leader of Northampton Borough Council says the way the it handled the £10.25 million loan to Northampton town was “horrible and shocking” but he does not intend to force the chief executive’s resignation.

Yesterday PwC released a damning report into the way the borough loaned Northampton Town money for a stadium development and a new hotel.

Among a catalogue of failings, it found the authority’s cabinet were asked to approve the loan weeks before independent legal advice was sought from experts; checks on the progress of the stadium involved little more than a drive past in a car and officers were pressured to rush through paperwork for the loan by management and former leader, David Mackintosh.

In an interview with the Chronicle and Echo, current council leader Councillor Jonathan Nunn described the report’s findings as “horrible and shocking.”

But even though he said a great deal of responsibility for the failure rests with the £140,000-a-year chief executive David Kennedy, he does not intend to call for his resignation, or set in place a process to remove the highest ranking officer.

He said: “The chief executive knows how bad this is.

“It hadn’t taken this report to tell us that.

“The loan went wrong and from that point we were already looking at what happened.

“At the moment my intention is to put this right and we are looking at the existing team to do that.

“The chief executive is acutely aware of the pressure of putting that right and very aware of the errors made during his term.

“No one feels the need to put things right a much as I do and he does.”

In a step out of keeping with normal procedure, Mr Kennedy will present PwC’s report himself at the next audit committee on December 5 and councillors will have the opportunity to ask him questions.

Recent additional information released by KPMG showed a similarly flimsy agreement was in place when the council chose to loan Northampton Saints £5 million to develop its stadium.

On the back of the PwC report, Councillor Nunn says it is “lucky” that no other major projects collapsed in a similar way to the Cobblers debacle.

The leader could not say how much progress had been made on the next major report into the Sixfields dealings, which is currently being compiled by KPMG.

However, he did say that report will be even “broader and go into more depth about who was involved in what.”

And he said the authority has now strengthened its scrutiny processes before loaning organisations money and entering into contracts with third parties.

Though he said this was likely to slow down the pace of change seen in Northampton over the past five years, he said it was imperative to “get things right”.

“They say the safest airline to fly on is the one that had a crash last year - and in many ways that is true of us,” he added.

“We are going to take longer to make decisions, but that is because we are going to make sure everything is done properly.”

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