A motion calling for the Conservative Party to pay back £36,000 of donations Northampton South MP David Mackintosh received for his election campaign was turned down by the Tories at the Guildhall last night.
In what turned out to be a fiery debating point at the December full Northampton Borough Council meeting, the Liberal Democrat group leader Councillor Sally Beardsworth said the Tories had a duty to repay the money.
Her call came after it emerged former council leader Mr Mackintosh had received at least two £10,000 donations to his 2015 fighting fund from business associates of Howard Grossman, the Bushey-based man who was sole director of the development firm tasked with managing the Sixfields stadium revamp in 2013. Neither of the two associates were connected to 1st Land and there is nothing illegal about businesspeople donating money to election funds. Both the police and the Electoral Commission have said they are not investigating.
Mr Mackintosh has said in the past that the payments were given on the basis of national issues, not local ones, and he said he had not discussed Sixfields or the loan to anyone who donated money.
But with the borough council now pursuing legal action to reclaim that £10.25 million it loaned to Northampton Town in 2013 for the stadium revamp, last night Councillor Beardsworth said it should also seek to recover £36,000 of donations to Mr Mackintosh’s fighting fund as well.
The motion read: “Given that the loan money has gone missing, it is essential we retrieve as much as possible of the £10.25 million and that we avoid any perception of propriety [sic] beyond what cannot be avoided.
“Therefore this council resolves to formally request the return of all and any donations linked to anyone that could have financially benefitted from the loan from this council from the Conservative party to be counted against the NTFC loan.”
Speaking on the motion Councillor Beardsworth said that she was not satisfied with the fact an internal Conservative Party investigation had cleared Mr Mackintosh of wrongdoing.
She said: “The Conservative Party was asked has anything been done wrong?
“It was like asking the Corleone family whether any of their family had done wrong.”
She added: “If you don’t ask for it back you are condoning it as far as I’m concerned.”
Other opposition members weighed in on the debate, with the Labour group agreeing to back the motion.
Labour group leader, Councillor Danielle Stone, said the loan money had been “misused” and the Tories should seek to make amends for any links it had to people involved in the Sixfields development.
“It was bad enough finding that we had given £10.25 million without any scrutiny.
“We cannot afford to let this sort of perception taint political life.”
A recorded vote defeated the motion however, with the controlling Conservative bench voting against it.
Leader of the borough council, Councillor Mary Markham, told the council there was no evidence to suggest the money received by Mr Mackintosh for his campaign was in any way connected from the £10.25 million loan.
She said: “The people on the opposite side of the chamber can say whatever they like, but we also took this up with the police and with the Electoral Commission and they say there has been no wrongdoing with that money.
The police and Electoral Commission have assured me that the money pledged (to David Mackintosh) did not come from the money loaned to the football club.
“If you have any trouble with electoral expenses I suggest you take it up with the police, with councillor (sic) Mackintosh, because it doesn’t involve the money that we loaned to the football club.”