Northamptonshire MP quizzed in Parliament about council-owned company that bought box at Franklin's Gardens

The Northamptonshire County Council-owned company that spent £1.5 million "without external checks" was brought up in a House of Commons debate last week.

Friday, 26th October 2018, 3:57 pm
Updated Friday, 26th October 2018, 4:00 pm
Valerie Vaz and Andrea Leadsom

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.

Among the spending was a hospitality box at Northampton Saints and the hiring of a plane.

For 23 years the company was not audited and when 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.

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Valerie Vaz and Andrea Leadsom

Labour MP for Walsall South, Valerie Vaz, was speaking during last week's business questions when she addressed South Northamptonshire MP Andrea Leadsom.

"The Government clearly cannot manage their departments nor, it seems, can they be fiscally credible unless they are taking money from the vulnerable," said Mrs Vaz.

"The shadow Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has asked about this: 'can the Leader of the House say what NEA Properties, a company owned by cash-strapped NCC, spent £1.5 million on?'

"Nobody knows what that was about. It is said it was spent on unspecified 'projects'; there were no external checks."

Councillor Mick Scrimshaw

In reply, Mrs Leadsom told the house she was "incredibly concerned about the county council's situation".

"The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has brought in commissioners to deal with the specific issues of NCC and the local councillors are making proposals on how to ensure that my constituents and all other Northamptonshire residents get the best value for money as well as good services," she said.

Labour county councillor for Northall, Mick Scrimshaw, said Mrs Leadsom's non-answer was perhaps down to the fact that no one knows exactly what the money was spent on.

The local authority could not comment due to the ongoing review.

"It was disappointing but unsurprising that Andrea Leadsom didn’t answer the question about NEA’s spending but then I suspect she doesn’t know what they have spent money on, and that, of course, is part of the problem. Neither do we," said Councillor Scrimshaw.

"I have absolutely no idea who these councillors and guests were or why there seems to be a discrepancy between what the auditors were originally told and what the facts later turned out to be, but clearly there are some very big and important questions to answer here."