Sixfields Stadium – The £12 million question?
It is difficult to gauge the concerns of genuine Cobblers supporters over the demand, all be it late in coming by the Borough Council Conservatives for the loan of £10.25 million to be paid back within the next three weeks the club having missed the last two payments.
What is of greater concern is that the Leader of the Council only two weeks ago said that payments were up to date?
It is inconceivable that the Leader didn’t know of the missed payments and either smacks of ignorance as to what is happening or incompetence by her administration and especially when you consider how high profile the issue has been over the past 10 years
It would also be fair to ask what an earth has Cllr Tim Hadland been doing having obtained the Leadership of the Council over this very issue back in 2005?
What is of greater concern is that in the event of default the club may well go into administration and the implications for not only the continuing existence of the club but also for the Northampton taxpayers who will find themselves with a stadium and its associated running cost coming out of their taxes.
This is a very sad state of affirms. Which has brought the integrity of everyone involved into question.
It is now time for Greg Clark MP the Minister for Local Government to order an immediate open, transparent and public investigation into the whole issue.
A failure to do so will only serve to confirm the perception of many that “something was rotten in the ‘State of Northampton’ under the former Leader now MP”
First published 219 days ago
I should start this off by very clearly stating that as my record demonstrates I fully support our professional as well as our non-professional sports clubs and as I have written before I welcomed the application for the redevelopment of the Sixfields Stadium as good news which I hoped would benefit local businesses.
In fact when I met with David Cardoza in the week following the 2011 Election I reiterated a promise that the Council would support the redevelopment of the Stadium to provide long-term stability and viability for the club.
However the current situation regarding the progress or what is now the lack of progress on the East Stand since the workers downed tools and walked off the site of the 6th October last year raises real concerns.
The silence around the whole issue raises a number of questions not the least being just what arrangements were put in place for the monitoring of the use of the £12 million loan facilitated by Cllr David Mackintosh.
There is no doubt that it was a political decision taken by Cllr Mackintosh on behalf of the Northampton taxpayers to borrow the £12 million and then lend the money to Northampton Town Football Club at a preferential interest rate not available to them from other sources.
There is also little room for doubt that when David Cardoza bought the club in 2002 it was in a dire economic state and on the verge of going out of business or that his involvement in the club was also due to the development potential of the land around the stadium.
Who can criticise David Cardoza for seeking a business opportunity if at the same time his investment saved the club from going into administration?
Certainly not me.
As a member of the Borough Council Cabinet I was fully supportive in agreeing to a 150 year lease of the stadium to David Cardoza for the princely sum of £1.
It was good business because we had received guarantees that the Cobblers would be run professionally and that the £500,000 a year subsidy from the Northampton tax payer would not be needed. A decision that has saved the tax payer over £6 million since it was taken.
History of course shows that following an ill-advised decision, later reversed, on the development plans for the surrounding Sixfield area taken by the same Cabinet, which led to Cllr Phil Larratt being replaced by Cllr Tim Hadland as the Leader of the Council, followed by a change of political control in 2007 that stalled development for over 10 years.
What’s now being questioned is why isn’t Cllr Mackintosh or Cllr Hadland raising the issue of what exactly the £12 million loan is delivering.
Perhaps the Government department who provided the £12 million loan to Northampton Borough Council should also be asking the Leader of the Council what is happening.
Can anyone believe that if a bank, or individual had provided a loan of £12 million to a company who has a net worth, according to their latest submitted accounts of -£7.4 million wouldn’t have a contractual agreement and monitoring process in place to make sure the money was being spent on what it was provided for?
My understanding from a number of statements Cllr Mackintosh made was that he had personally negotiated and authorised the loan against guarantees that it would all be spent on the development of the stadium to ensure the long-term financial stability and viability of the club.
If that is the case, fine, but the problem we are now seeing raises the question of what has actually been agreed between Northampton Borough Council and the Football Club.
The club I’m told have ‘drawn down’ the £12 million loan, and that a company called County Development (Northampton) Limited which was set up in June 2013 is responsible for the stadium development.
What I and I’m sure from talking to people who are connected to the club, supporters and officials at the Council are asking is what an earth has gone wrong?
We know that there is a dispute between NTFC, (and this is where it gets confusing), the “Contractor appointed to manage the project”?
What was surprising was to read that a spokesman for the club has said,
“This has not come as a surprise or a shock to the club and was expected”!!!!
I assume that an architect was appointed by either NTFC or County Development (Northampton) Ltd to design the East Stand and that it was designed to meet requirements provided by the club, the number of additional seats, boxes, toilets, disabled access, facilities etc.
I also presume that whoever appointed Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd to carry out the construction work also provided them with the designs agreed by the NTFC board.
As someone who wanted to see local businesses benefit from the development I was pleased that such a respected company as Buckingham Group Contractor Ltd was given the contract because they have a brilliant reputation after building amongst others the Stadium MK, Silverstone Wing and Amex Stadium Brighton.
The dispute between NTFC and the contractors who they pointed to oversee the construction work has nothing to do with Buckingham Group who I am led to believe have delivered what was in the agreed design for the East Stand.
So isn’t it sensible and reasonable for the Northampton tax payers to ask Cllr Mackintosh to make a statement on what are they receiving for the £12 million loan he has provided to the football club.
Questions such as,
Who appointed and who are the contractors who NTFC are now in dispute with that has seen work stop since October 6th 2014?
Who appointed and who approved the design of the East Stand?
What fees, if any, have County Developments (Northampton) Limited been paid for their role in facilitating the East Stand development and what fees, if any, has the ‘contractors managing the project’ been paid?
Is there any links between County Developments (Northampton) Limited and the contractors with who NTFC are in dispute?
How much has the work already carried out on the redevelopment of the East Stand cost?
If it is true that what has been built is now unsuitable how much will it cost to start again or correct the problems?
What the tax payer may well ask is that if fees have been taken how much is left of the £12 million for the development of the Stadium?
What people may also well ask is if there are Directors involved in all or some of the companies and organisations involved in what is swiftly becoming a debacle and if they so are they taking fees for each post held?
And if they are how much have the fees been to date?
The £12 million question is really who is benefitting financially from the loan and can they justify it?
For The Leader of the Borough Council who personally arranged, authorised and has taken credit for the loan what guarantees are there that the money is being spent on what he tells us he has agreed with NTFC?
The increased performance and success in recent weeks that Northampton has delivered on the pitch is brilliant to see and may well lead to the play-offs, what we now need to know is when will it be replicated off the pitch and the promised stadium redevelopment delivered.
Until Cllr Mackintosh provides the truth behind the loan and what has been agreed there will be a cloud of suspicion hanging over his administration that this was a deal driven in pursuit of self-interest without the necessary safeguard of £12 million of taxpayers money.