MP accuses Northampton Borough Council of a '˜cover up' in shock statement on Â£10.25m Sixfields loan
The fallout over the missing Â£10.25 million loan to the Cobblers has erupted into full-scale war - with a Northampton MP now accusing his former borough council colleagues of a 'cover up' and calling on the chief executive to resign.
Northampton South MP David Mackintosh was leader of Northampton Borough Council when the loan to Sixfields was granted back in 2013.
But as the development of Sixfields stadium began to fall apart over the next year - Mr Mackintosh was handed a set of documents by a whistleblower explaining that the loan monies may have been used for other purposes.
A dispute over the way in which the MP dealt with that information has now become the subject of a blazing row between him and his former colleagues at the borough council.
In June a statement from the council to the BBC claimed there was “no record” Mr Mackintosh passed on those concerns to the authority’s chief executive David Kennedy.
Today Mr Mackintosh has issued a statement claiming he did so verbally.
He said: “The statement wrongly implied that I had not discussed allegations made by a whistleblower with the chief executive.
“I absolutely did discuss this matter with him during one-to-one meetings whilst I was leader, and I asked the current leader of the council, Councillor Mary Markham, to make this clear in the press statement, to which she agreed.
“Inexplicably this then never happened.”
In an astonishing statement, Mr Mackintosh went on to claim that part of a Freedom of Information request he put in asking for more information around the Sixfields loan had been “withheld” by the borough council.
The council said the information was tough to obtain and was simply struggling to make the deadline.
The MP has called on the Information Commissioner to launch an investigation as a result and says he will go to the police if he does not receive the documents he asked for.
His statement went to say: “I believe the information that is being wrongfully withheld will help establish that a deliberate effort has been made to divert attention away from the legal responsibilities of senior borough council officers and absolve them of blame for the handling of the loan.
“I have therefore formally asked the Information Commissioner to investigate as I believe this could be the result of an intentional effort to cover up information that would implicate senior officers at the council.”
He added: “I feel strongly that the chief executive should be suspended pending an investigation, and the leader of the council needs to explain her actions and those of her senior officers in breaching the law in order to prevent a Member of Parliament seeking information that is clearly in the public interest.”
Earlier this month Mr Mackintosh wrote to the borough council’s audit committee, suggesting the authority’s chief executive David Kennedy should have declared his friendship with a Cobblers director, David Jackson, back in 2013.
Mr Kennedy was delegated responsibility for overseeing the loan payments to Sixfields in July 2013, but Mr Mackintosh claimed Mr Kennedy did not register this friendship as an interest.
Mr Mackintosh now claims to have proof the interest was not registered.
He said: “The declaration of interest document released to me confirms that this had not been divulged and that cabinet were unaware of this information when the powers were delegated to the chief executive.
“I find it hard to comprehend why the chief executive has not been suspended whilst this matter is properly investigated.”
The leader of Northampton Borough Council, Councillor Mary Markham, said: “I can confirm that the deadline for Mr Mackintosh’s five FOI requests was missed.
“The staff involved are also working to retrieve the information needed by Northamptonshire Police for their investigation. Because of the enormous amount of work in Mr Mackintosh’s request, they intended to write to him to extend the 20 day deadline by an extra ten days, which it is possible to do.
“This did not happen. That was an error and I am very sorry for it. We have apologised unreservedly to both Mr Mackintosh and to the Information Commissioner’s office.
“The Information Commissioner has now given us ten further days to send the requested material to Mr Mackintosh but we are working hard to try to send it all to him much sooner. Again, I apologise for the delay and assure him that the information will be sent as soon as possible.
“I am determined to uncover everything that led up to the giving of the loan to Northampton Town Football Club and all the subsequent issues.
“I have initiated two reviews by internal and external auditors and am co-operating fully with Northamptonshire Police on their investigation into possible criminal matters.
“That is why I have asked for a further sum of money to be made available, to ensure we really do find out what went wrong and take every step to retrieve the public money that has gone missing.
“When those reviews are complete we will make a decision on any further action that needs to be taken.”
The Chron has learned this morning that the borough council has now passed on the full Freedom of Information request to Mr Mackintosh.
Councillor Danielle Stone, Leader of the Labour Group, said: “The loan to Northampton Town Football Club is a bleak episode for the Borough Council. I have written to the external auditors, KPMG, asking for a Public Interest Report and we have a scrutiny call-in coming up. In drawing conclusions about personal conduct it is only fair and proper to wait for the outcome of the internal auditors report, the KPMG Public Interest Report and the Police Investigation.”