Shropshire

Council aims to reclaim funds paid to The New Saints FC

Park Hall Stadium Image copyright Google Maps
Image caption The loan was given to The New Saints in Oswestry to pay for a new stand at Park Hall Stadum

A football club locked in a row over an £80,000 grant for stadium improvements is set to be pursued for repayments by the council which provided the funds.

Shropshire Council said The New Saints FC received the sum six years ago "on the understanding it would be repaid", but only £10,000 had been recovered.

According to an authority audit report, high staff turnover meant mistakes were made in tracing repayments.

The chairman of the club maintains the funds were not to be repaid.

The audit report says the council will take steps to reclaim the money.

Club chairman Mike Harris took to Twitter to say the council should apologise, adding the funding was a grant and, as such, was not repayable if its terms were met.

The money was used to pay for a 500-seat stand at the club's Park Hall Stadium, in Oswestry, so it could play European matches.

The club - known as TNS - has been contacted for further comment.

The council calls the money a legacy grant, and sees it as a loan.

It says it came from the Market Town Revitalisation Programme (MTRP) - a fund of £3.5m made available to support economic growth in the county.

The council said in a statement: "One condition of the grant funding agreement with TNS was that they were required to deliver a grant of £16,000 each year, over a five-year period.

"Although this has happened in part, the onward grant payments have not yet been made in full and therefore TNS's compliance with the terms of the grant is in dispute."

The audit report says "it is unclear why the funds were not recovered earlier" by the council.

Clive Wright, its chief executive, said there was "no maladministration" by the authority, but it should have acted sooner.

The council says it is now seeking to recover the money in line with the terms of the grant agreement.

Image copyright Google Maps
Image caption Shropshire Council says it will seek to recoup the remaining £70,000

According to the audit report, the first payment was made to TNS in June 2012.

The document adds the only repayments by the club to date are £4,000 paid in July 2015 and a further £6,000 in November of that year.

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