Peers put pressure on police and government for answers over probe into £13.25m borough council loan to football club

Opposition Lords demand to know 'how are those responsible for this scandal going to be held to account and made to pay'

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 5:50 pm
The East stand at Sixfields remains unfinished more than seven years after work started. Photo: Getty Images

Labour peers are putting pressure Northamptonshire Police and the government to act over the "scandal" of Northampton Borough Council's £13.25million loan to the Northampton Town Football Club.

A five-year criminal investigation costing £1m-plus has so far failed to deliver any charges over the apparent disappearance of more than £10m of the cash lent to fund ambitious plans for a hotel, conference centre and shops at Cobblers' Sixfields ground.

And, during questions in the House of Lords today, Lord Foulkes said : "David Mackintosh was leader of the council when this loan which is subject of irregularities was made.

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David Mackintosh was Northampton Borough Council leader at the time of the loan in 2013

"The chairman of Northampton [Town Football Club] and some of the businessmen associated with it then gave money to David Mackintosh's election account when he stood as a Tory member of Parliament, these were not declared, the Electoral Commission has asked the police to investigate this as well.

"So would the minister explain what the police are doing, when they are going to report and when the Conservative party are going to admit this has been a terrible scandal on their watch?"

Opposition local government spokesman Lord Kennedy raised issues over the deal following a damning independent report by independent auditors KPMG earlier this year.

Lord Kennedy, who is also vice-president of the Local Government Association, said: "This is a terrible scandal, a failure of due diligence, a failure of governance, a failure of leadership that has let down the residents of Northampton and lost them over £10m and let down supporters of Northampton Town who have a half-built stand.

"How are those responsible for this scandal going to be held to account and made to pay."

The borough council has spent around £2½m on consultants, accountants and lawyers in an effort to recover the missing millions and opposition councillors last month estimate the total loss is around £17m as a result of the deal.

Last month's final full meeting of the council voted to accept the KPMG report and its recommendations, although the council is due to be abolished on March 31 and replaced by the new West Northamptonshire unitary authority.

Minister of State, Lord Greenhalgh, told the House: "We are aware of the public interest report however it is for council to consider and respond to issues raised.

"On April 22, the council set out its response to the report's recommendations and it will be for them and successor councils to implement those.

"If there's criminal matters, it is for the police to investigate those. It's also for Electoral Commission to investigate to any other wrong doings.

"It's important that we learn the lessons from this, that it doesn't happen again and that the recommendations following from the public interest report are carried out in full."

Northamptonshire Police has been contacted for comment.