Cobblers loan: Questions asked after WNC cabinet member spotted with Ex-MP David Mackintosh

The two attended an event together on Saturday night

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By Natalie Bloomer

The judgement of West Northants Council cabinet member Mike Hallam is being called into question after he was spotted with the former MP for Northampton South David Mackintosh.

Mackintosh stood down as a member of parliament in 2017 after coming under pressure for his involvement in the £10.25m council loan to Northampton Town Football Club. The money was never repaid and the development of the East Stand which it was intended for was not carried out. 

Cllr Hallam and Mackintosh, who are said to be good friends, were spotted on camera sitting side by side at the British Legion event at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday evening, something one senior Conservative party source told NN Journal showed ‘very poor judgement’ from Hallam.

As leader of Northampton Borough Council (NBC) when the football club loan was approved, Mackintosh was heavily criticised for his handling of the matter. Cllr Hallam was also a NBC cabinet member at the time.

Leader of West Northamptonshire Council Jonathan Nunn, who appointed Cllr Hallam as cabinet member for HR and Corporate Services at WNC in June, has previously called the football club loan a ‘sorry state of affairs’.

“The granting of the loan was done in a woeful and deeply disappointing way, an earlier speaker described it as a ‘sorry state of affairs’ and I would go along with that,” he told a cabinet meeting earlier this year. 

“When I joined the Cabinet in 2016 the inadequacy of the activities and decisions taken around that time in 2013 had already started to become clear. It was clear that an apology was due and I took it on my shoulders to be the person to make it. I reiterate that apology to the businesses and people of Northampton for the poor way this was done.”

Mackintosh came under further scrutiny over allegations made about money donated to his campaign fund. An ongoing police investigation into the loan scandal has so far led to seven people facing charges over the donations. 

One of those, Alan Mayfield, has admitted paying £10,000 into the campaign fund without declaring that the money came from him. Northampton Magistrates Court was told that £11,000 was paid to Mayfield by Howard Grossman of 1st Land Ltd - a company connected to the intended development of the football club. Days later £10,000 was sent from Mayfield to Northampton South Conservative Association.

The football club scandal has hung over Northampton for years with councillors hoping the move to new unitary authorities would mark a fresh start. Leader of the Labour group in Northampton at the time of the loan, Cllr Danielle Stone said Cllr Hallam has shown “an extremely poor lack of judgement''.

“I’m very surprised that Mike Hallam isn’t more careful with his reputation and that of WNC. We’re a new authority, we can’t be seen to be linked back to all that.”

However when NN Journal contacted him about it, Cllr Hallam asked why it was relevant and said he was invited to the event by the British Legion.

“My great-grandfather fought in the war and so I was thrilled to attend,” he said. 

When asked if he was concerned about going with Mackintosh while the police investigation was still ongoing he said he believed in being “innocent until proven guilty”.

Despite the criticisms and failings identified, Mackintosh has continued to have a high-flying career linked to politics. The same year he stepped down after facing deselection by his party he was appointed as a Young Leader by the Franco-British Council, an organisation which ‘generates ideas’ between Britain and France.

The Young Leaders initiative was described by the Head of Corporate affairs at the City of London Corporation as ‘a great networking opportunity’. The Franco-Britain Council says its flagship residences which are part of the programme ‘offer a space for new and existing members of the network to meet and engage with high profile individuals in the host-country’. 

A photograph of the ‘young leaders’, including Mackintosh, meeting President Macron at the Elysee Palace is featured on the Franco-British Council’s website.

In January 2019 Mackintosh went on to be appointed a secretary at the Franco-British Council and he is also named as the Public Enquiry Point for the All Party Parliamentary Group for France.

Cllr Nunn was contacted for a comment but has not yet responded.

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