Northampton South MP David Mackintosh says he “never discussed Sixfields” with any donors to his election campaign, including business associates of one of the Northampton Town developers.
In his first public statement since details of the payments emerged last week, Mr Mackintosh was responding to a number of specific questions put to him by the Chron.
In a written response, Mr Mackintosh did not go into any detailed background to the donations but said they were made on the basis of “national issues” and not connected to the redevelopment of Sixfields or council matters.
Last week, it was reported that the Conservative former borough council leader had accepted donations to his fighting fund from two business associates of Howard Grossman, the sole director of 1st Land, a company which acted as project manager for Northampton Town’s stadium revamp.
There was no suggestion that any of the payments were in any way illegal and business people are entitled to make political donations. Northampton South Conservative Association did admit one of the payments had not been registered, blaming an “administrative error”, and the matter was referred to Conservative Central Office and the police.
Last week, Mr Grossman said he could not comment on any payments because they had been made by other people.
Mr Mackintosh was leader of the borough council when a loan of up to £12 million was given to Northampton Town Football Club so the Cobblers could complete a major refurbishment of Sixfields, including a new East Stand.
In August 2013, 1st Land, which was part of the North London-based County Group of firms, was chosen as the contractor for the development. In November 2013, Mr Mackintosh attended the Amy Winehouse Foundation Ball at the Dorchester Hotel, an event organised by Mr Grossman and members of his family. The ticket was registered by Mr Mackintosh under the ‘gifts and hospitality’ section of the county council’s website. He also says it was registered with the borough council, although that listing is not on the website.
In April 2014, a £10,000 donation was made to Northampton South Conservative Association by a businessman who at one point was a fellow director of a company along with Mr Grossman. A further £10,000 was paid by another business associate of Mr Grossman. Neither individual has commented to the Chron. Neither of the businessmen were connected to 1st Land Ltd and there was no suggestion they had done anything illegal.
Mr Mackintosh was responding to questions put to him by the Chron. He declined a request by this newspaper for a one-to-one interview and answers were given in a written statement only.
The Chron put a series of questions to Mr Mackintosh, asking for detailed information about all of the payments made to his election campaign and the basis on which they were made. He was also asked questions about his relationship with County Group, the umbrella company of 1st Land.
In the written reply, Mr Mackintosh told the Chron: “I first met directors from the County Group developers after they were appointed by Northampton Town Football Club.
“Neither I nor anyone at the borough council were involved in their appointment.
“I never discussed Sixfields or any council matters with anyone who donated money to the General Election campaign. The focus was on national issues.”
He added: “All donations have been correctly declared in line with Electoral Commission rules, save one donation in April 2014. This is in the process of being rectified. I was made aware of this administrative error last Monday.”
Last week it emerged that the current leader of Northampton Borough Council, Councillor Mary Markham, had referred the issue to Conservative Central Office and Northamptonshire Police. The Chron understands that Conservative Central Office has completed its investigation into the payments and will not be taking any action. Northamptonshire Police has been approached for an update.
Mr Mackintosh also said that he was pleased to see Kelvin Thomas taking over at the Cobblers.
“My aim was always to secure the long term future of the club and I’m pleased that now looks likely,” he added.
“I’m also pleased that there is an inquiry underway at the borough council because, whilst I am confident in the decisions taken by me, other councillors and senior officers, nobody more than me wants to understand what happened and where the money went.”