Northampton

David Mackintosh MP accuses council of Sixfields 'cover up'

David Mackintosh MP Image copyright Art Conaghan
Image caption David Mackintosh says he spoke to senior officers at the council about a whistleblower's concerns over the alleged misuse of the £10.25m loan

An MP has accused his former council colleagues of a cover up in a row over a missing £10.25m loan.

Northampton Borough Council gave the cash to Northampton Town FC in 2013 to redevelop its Sixfields stadium.

David Mackintosh MP, who was council leader at the time, said the authority had "wrongly implied" he did not inform colleagues when a whistleblower raised concerns with him about the money.

The council said it was working with police and had initiated two reviews.

In June, it emerged Conservative MP Mr Mackintosh had been alerted by a whistleblower to concerns about the money in March 2015, but the council said it had no record that he had passed this on to them.

He said this was incorrect and that the emails were "immediately passed to senior officers".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Northampton Borough Council loaned £10.25m for the Cobblers to redevelop Sixfields and adjoining land

In a statement in the Northampton Chronicle, he now claims he did so verbally, and made a sideswipe at council leader Mary Markham and chief executive David Kennedy.

"The statement wrongly implied that I had not discussed allegations made by a whistleblower with the chief executive," he said.

"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, Mary Markham, to make this clear in the press statement, to which she agreed.

"Inexplicably this then never happened."

He has also called for Mr Kennedy to be suspended over an "undeclared" interest.

He claimed documents received in response to a Freedom of Information request confirm Mr Kennedy did not declare his friendship with Northampton Town director David Jackson.

"As I expected, what appears to be key information has been redacted by the council," said Mr Mackintosh, who added he was considering making a complaint to police.

Image copyright Getty Images

"The documents I have seen do confirm that the chief executive did not declare his close friendship with a former NTFC director prior to beginning negotiations with them on behalf of the authority.

"This matter alone deserves urgent and independent review by external investigators, and the chief executive should be suspended until this is concluded.

"I believe people will be concerned by what appears to be a high-level cover up at the borough council, and expect answers to the serious questions this has raised."

Work started at Sixfields in early 2014 but the plans were soon downgraded and by September 2015 it was found the club had failed to make repayments on the loan.

High Court papers contain allegations developer Howard Grossman and his associates used a "substantial part" of the money for unrelated purposes, which Mr Grossman denies.

Mr Jackson said he was "appalled by the way David Mackintosh is bringing me into this".

"I wasn't involved in the loan negotiations in any way shape or form. I can only imagine he is doing this to deflect attention away from himself."

In a statement, Ms Markham said: "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.

"When those reviews are complete we will make a decision on any further action that needs to be taken."

Danielle Stone, the leader of the council's Labour group, described the loan as a "bleak episode" for the council, and said she had asked the external auditors for a public interest report.

A memorandum of understanding has been in place since The Cobblers were put under new ownership last year.

It would would see the debt wiped out, with the council in return acquiring land near Sixfields for development.

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