Police still removing files at Northampton Borough Council as part of Cobblers investigation

Northampton Borough Council leader Mary Markham has confirmed the police investigation into the �10.25 million Sixfields loan saga is continuing at a pace.
Northampton Borough Council leader Mary Markham has confirmed the police investigation into the �10.25 million Sixfields loan saga is continuing at a pace.

Police officers “continue to take files” from Northampton Borough Council’s headquarters and interview its staff members over the £10.25 million loan to the Cobblers, the leader of the authority has revealed as an internal investigation got under way last night.

Members of the council’s audit committee formally agreed to the scope of an internal investigation to look into the “procedures and processes” in place at the authority when it loaned the funds to Northampton Town.

Chris Dickens, from the appointed auditors Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC), told the committee his investigation would not be a “forensic study” of what went wrong between 2013 and 2014, nor would it be looking specifically into “personalities” in the council between that time.

He said a report is not likely to take more than “nine or 12 months” to draw up, though opposition members sitting on the audit committee had called for the review to go into more depth.

Councillor Danielle Stone (Lab, Castle) said: “This review is in danger of missing something - the undoubted tension there must have been officer and members (the elected councillors) when these decisions were being made.”

Councillor Les Marriott (Lab, Semilong) asked whether the council carried out a credit check on Northampton Town before loaning it the £10.25 million - a suggestion which Mr Dickens said could in fact be covered as part of the PWC report.

But the internal investigation is only one of three being conducted within the council at the present time.

Speaking after last night’s meeting, leader of the borough council, Councillor Mary Markham (Con, Park) said the external audit by KPMG is likely to take much longer and will go into greater depth.

She also confirmed the criminal investigation over alleged financial mismanagement is continuing at a pace.

She said: “They (police officers) continue to collect evidence and files and talk to individuals.

“I know that I expect I will have a visit myself from the police. I fully expect to and I do know that I will have to be interviewed by KPMG as part of their investigation too.

“I am more than happy to do that and share everything I know because it is important for everybody that we get to the bottom of this.”

She added: “Above all else I still need to recover the £10.25m, and I still need to pursue the people that have our money.”

It is not known when KPMG will return its report.

But Councillor Markham said the firm’s external investigation will deal far more with the question of “who” could shoulder responsibility for the failed Sixfields development from within the council walls between 2013 and 2014, than the internal review being launched by PWC this week.

She said: “It will go much deeper into things they are not just looking at the processes, they will look at what people did what and was it the right way to do it; who should have taken those decision and who in fact did take those decisions - because I don’t have all those answers, I wasn’t involved in the process of it.”

She added: “After the agreement (to loan the money to Northampton Town) was given at cabinet (back in 2013) then it went across to the leader and the chief executive.

“Obviously they worked in conjunction with other officers so I don’t have the detail.”