Fans of Northampton Town, the Cobblers, can breathe again says PETER FROST but there is still a strange smell at the Sixfields Stadium. It’s the stench of Tory corruption.
Northampton Town fans along with players and employees are a little happier this week, now that former Oxford United chairman Kelvin Thomas has completed his takeover of the Cobblers.
Thomas, who has become executive chairman, has paid the £166,000 owed to HM Revenue & Customs thus avoiding a winding-up petition. Wages are being paid again.
Thompson’s new consortium now in charge also includes David Bower, who becomes a director, and Mike Wailing, who becomes non-executive director. The old management David Cardoza and director Barry Hancock have left the club.
Despite all these off the field shenanigans the team itself is playing well having won twelve of its last twenty games. The Cobblers are currently third in the League Two automatic promotion places.
However off pitch the stench of corruption just won’t go away. Indeed local police have started an enquiry into goings on between the Local Council, its past leader, now local Tory MP, David Mackintosh and several developers involved in the aborted stadium redevelopment.
Come with me to the Sixfield’s stadium, down Walter Tull Way, named for one of the first ever black professional footballers in this country.
We’ll pass his memorial commemorating Tull, son of a slave, who was also the first ever black officer in the British Army. He fought and died in WW1.
Tull found a friendly home playing for the Cobblers, named for the shoemaking industry that once dominated the town.
The stadium looks like a building site, The huge unfinished skeleton of the new stand is silhouetted against the sky but it is clear that no work has been done for months.
Northampton Borough Council still has plans to lodge an administration petition in a bid to give it more control over the Cobbler’s future but, following a memorandum of understanding between new owner Thomas and the council the local authority has agreed to ask for an adjournment.
The new council deal would see the ten million debt wiped out, with the council acquiring land behind the Sixfield’s stadium for development to pay off the missing money.
The local paper has carried a story that ex Cobbler’s owner David Cardoza was having a new house built locally by the same company that was redeveloping the stadium and the architect was told to charge his work to the football club.
Meanwhile in the town questions are being asked of David Mackintosh who became the Conservative MP for Northampton South in May 2015 after being leader of the local council for many years.
You may remember Mackintosh. Private Eye named him ‘Philistine of the Year’ when he sold for many millions a rare Egyptian statue owned by the people of Northampton.
The BBC has also revealed that Mackintosh received thousands of pounds in undeclared payments connected to a businessman involved in the Northampton Town stadium redevelopment.
As Tory General Election candidate he received undeclared payment of £6,195 from Howard Grossman the man who headed up the stadium redevelopment and received the ten Million pound loan from the council.
Three other individuals all with links to Grossman each paid £10,000 into Mackintosh’s general election fighting fund. Not all payments were declared to the Electoral Commission. Failure to declare such donations can result in a fine or even criminal charges.
Howard Grossman was director of 1st Land, the company set up to oversee the rebuild the Sixfields’ Stadium. The company subsequently went into administration and the ten million pound debt vanished in a flurry of far from transparent inter-company deals.
Efforts are now being made to trace the loan. Millions of pounds of public money remain unaccounted for.
Mackintosh was leader of Northampton Borough Council and oversaw the authority’s role in the Sixfields’ project and arranged the unsecured ten million loan.
Two years ago Mackintosh attended a celebrity ball at the Dorchester Hotel in London paid for by Howard Grossman, owner of the County Group of which 1st Land was part.
Mackintosh’s £500 ticket for the Amy Winehouse Foundation fundraiser, attended by stars such as Pixie Lott, Barbara Windsor and Jerry Hall, is not recorded in his borough council declaration of gifts and hospitality.
Just six days later his council’s planning committee met and planning permission for the stadium redevelopment was given to Grossman and his
Grossman was also involved in a general election fundraising event for Mackintosh last November at the Conservative Carlton Club in London. The £295-a-head gathering was organised by Northampton Conservatives.
After the event Grossman subsequently sent £6,195 to Northampton South Conservative Association.
Suresh Patel, the chairman of Northampton South Conservatives and Mackintosh’s election agent, went to the Conservative Party chairman Lord Feldman last week. Feldman, of course, has problems of his own over young Tory bullying and suicides.
Patel gave the Tory Chairman a dossier detailing his concerns about the links between Mackintosh and Grossman, and for the first time admitted that at least one £10,000 donation had not been declared.
Patel confirmed that the undeclared payment from Grossman was for tickets to an election fundraising event. He said the Electoral Commission was not informed about one of the payment because of an administrative error.
By law personal donations of more than £500, and donations to local associations of more than £1,500, must be declared to the Electoral Commission.
Local Labour activists are considering whether these payments constitute a reason to appeal Mackintosh’s election victory while Cobbler fans cheer on their team from an unfinished stand and check under their seat for the missing ten million.
This article first appeared in the Morning Star 8 December 2015