Overwhelming case for independent inquiry says opposition leader on Northampton Town crisis

Labour group leader Councillor Danielle Stone says Cobblers fans deserve an answer as to how a �10.25 million loan to the club did not result in a completed stadium.

Labour group leader Councillor Danielle Stone says Cobblers fans deserve an answer as to how a �10.25 million loan to the club did not result in a completed stadium.

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There is an overwhelming case for a full public inquiry into the borough council’s role in the Cobblers stadium development fiasco, according to the authority’s opposition leader.

Councillor Danielle Stone (Lab, Castle) wrote to external auditors KPMG on October 14, calling for the firm to investigate Northampton Borough Council’s role in the whole affair.

She asked KPMG to consider whether the authority carried out enough background checks on Northampton town before agreeing to lend the club up to £12 million for a stadium redevelopment back in 2013.

Yesterday KPMG confirmed it has begun discussions with the council’s leadership and is currently deciding what action to take.

The auditors can either order a full blown investigation is carried out and a Public Interest Report (PIR) produced on the matter, order the council to carry out an internal investigation or take no further action.

Auditors do not have the power to hold a public hearing in producing any report, in which witnesses could be called to give evidence.

But Councillor Stone believes there is a case for a PIR to be produced.

She said: “Anything less than a PIR would be inadequate.

“Any inquiry has to be independent of the borough council.

“The borough council is simply too involved to do it. There are many questions on the Northampton town loan that need to be fully answered.

“Sometimes these sorts of inquiries can drag on but I urge the auditor to proceed with this as quickly as possible.”

A request for a full investigation into the decision to depedestrianise Abington Street in Northampton town centre was turned down by KPMG in June, although the auditors did send a detailed response to the objector stating shortfalls in the council’s consultation process.

Borough councillors will be called to a special meeting at the Guildhall next Monday night to discuss the ongoing situation at Sixfields with a further special meeting likely to be held after November 16, the day a winding up petition against Northampton Town Football Club is set to be held at the High Court in London. As it stands the football club has not yet repaid the borough council the remainder of the £10.25 million loan and HMRC is still pursuing its case against the club for unpaid taxes.

Earlier this month Northampton South MP David Mackintosh, who was leader of the borough council when the loan to Cobblers was granted, said he would welcome a public inquiry.

He said: “I would support a public inquiry, and I am confident that it would show that all proper checks were conducted and that the process for approving the loan was followed properly.

“What is less clear is what has happened since the loan was approved, and it is not me or the Borough Council who has questions to answer over that.”