Company owned by Northamptonshire County Council paid out £1.5m 'without external checks'

One Angel Square, headquarters of Northamptonshire County Council
One Angel Square, headquarters of Northamptonshire County Council

More than £1.5m spent on unspecified projects by a limited company owned by Northamptonshire County Council was done so without external checks.

NEA Properties Ltd, which is at the centre of an independent investigation commissioned by the council, spent the significant sums over a ten-year period from 2007 to 2017.

The accounts for the company listed on Companies House show detail spends categorised as ‘miscellaneous’ and ‘projects’ which total £1,607,815.

Councillor Andre Gonzalez De Savage, who was a director of the company from 2007, said: “The promotion of countywide tourism, sport, heritage and supporting the county's business economy was very much at the heart of all the projects that NEA contributed too.

“In terms of finances and the reporting of them, Northamptonshire County Council legal and finance departments were the appointed responsible areas and the manner in which they reported and presented the documents was in their professional opinions correct.”

The company was set up in 1983 and for a number of years derived its income from the rent earned by leasing buildings to the University of Northampton.

For 23 years the company was not audited and when auditors KPMG suggested it should be done last year the authority said there was no need as the limited company was being wound up. It was dissolved in January this year.

NEA's single biggest expenditure under 'projects' was £719k in the 2014-15 accounts. This may be related to the £700k NEA is said to have paid back to the county council that year following the sale of the units it was leasing to the university.

An FOI request asking for the total spend on miscellaneous items and projects to be broken down into detail and for invoices to be revealed, has been denied this week (Oct 2).

The response said: “ The council is currently conducting an investigation into the operation of NEA Properties Ltd. As such we are unable to comply with your request at this time and have applied FOIA 2000 exemption s.30, Investigations and proceedings conducted by public authorities.”

Joint story by Local Democracy Reporter Sarah Ward and BBC journalist Matt Precey.