Northampton councillors who were cabinet members at time of Cobblers £13,5m loan hit back at criticism over acceptance of prestigious honours
Pair say their conscience is clear after Lib Dems question whether it is right for them to receive award
Two senior Northampton borough councillors on the cabinet at the time of £13.5 million loan to Northampton Town have defended their acceptance of prestigious honours.
Councillors Tim Hadland and Brandon Eldred are due to receive the freedom of the borough and be made an honorary alderman respectively at a meeting on Monday (March 22).
Both were cabinet members when the controversial loan was awarded to the football club in 2013 and 2014. In a recent external independent report the council was accused of serious failings in the administration of the loan. The report focused its criticism on the leader at the time, as well as the then chief executive and finance director, who were given delegated powers over the detail of the loan.
However, it highlighted that cabinet members did not challenge the award of the loan and said cabinet members were not aware of some of the detail of the loan, including a clause that meant £5 million did not need to be paid back by the club.
The point of a lack of challenge and scrutiny by cabinet members was raised at a recent meeting of the borough council when the audit was discussed.
The Liberal Democrats have now questioned whether the Conservative councillors should accept the awards. Both have responded to say their conscience is clear.
Councillor Hadland told the Chronicle & Echo: "My conscience is absolutely clear, I feel very honoured and I am looking forward to the meeting on Monday."
And Councillor Eldred added: "My conscience is clear, I have done my best for my residents and the town.
"I'm privileged to be on this council for 15 years representing the people of Northampton, four in Headlands and 11 in East Hunsbury, and I want to keep serving them after May 6."
Lib Dem campaigner Paul Schofield said it was "wholly inappropriate" to be giving honours to the two councillors.
And Lib Dem councillor Sally Beardsworth, who is also being given the freedom of the borough, added that it is up to individuals whether or not to accept the award.
Councillor Eldred said he took responsibility for being on the council at the time but said he was not to blame for the failures.
"Hindsight is a great thing and the town was moving forward rapidly and my focus was on that," he added.
The freedom of the borough award is the highest honour a council can bestow and usually reserved for councillors who reach 30 years' service.
While being made an honorary alderman is usually given to councillors who have served for 15 years.
Freedom of the borough awards are also being given to councillor Phil Larratt, Northampton General Hospital and the Northampton Sikh Community Group, while nine other councillors are being made honorary aldermen.