Shropshire Star

£80,000 TNS grant row: Shropshire Council starts legal action against football club

Legal action has been launched by a Shropshire Council to recover a controversial £80,000 payment given to The New Saints football club.

The grant saga continues

The council says it is determined to force The New Saints to repay the money.

It is the latest twist in a bitter dispute between the council and the Oswestry-based club.

The authority gave the money to TNS back in 2012 to build a stand to compete in European competitions.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that only £10,000 of the money has been paid back. And there is confusion whether the money was given as a grant or a loan, prompting calls for a full inquiry.

Shropshire Council admitted earlier this month errors had been made – and TNS owner Mike Harris has demanded an apology or he will seek damages for "blackening" the club's name.

Today the council confirmed it has opened legal proceedings against the football club to recover the money.

Claire Porter, head of legal and democratic services with Shropshire Council, said: “We have commenced court proceedings and we are therefore unable to make any further comment during the course of the litigation.”

After it was revealed the majority of the money had not been paid back, the authority said it was taking steps to recover it.

Then earlier this month the authority admitted it had made mistakes in the process.

An audit report found the authority failed to ensure repayment grants were being made, due to staff turnover and weak management structures. The report said it is not known ‘whether this was by design or accident’.

The council missed at least eight opportunities to claw back the money after the club failed to make the payments, and crucial records were lost when IT staff "inadvertently wiped" computer files.

The council did not seek evidence that match-funding requirements had been met, and the council is still not aware of how – or why – the body it jointly set up to distribute the grants "went dormant".

In recent weeks, club owner Mr Harris has come out fighting, saying all payments back were agreed to be voluntary, and the club did actually pay back £10,000.


In a series of tweets, he has threatened to seek damages from the council for "blackening" his club's name.

Mr Harris said he will put forward a counter claim if he needs to, and expects the council's chief executive and leader to resign if they fail.

He added that what would have required a simple apology could turn into hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation.

“Any claim will be met with a counter claim and I will expect the chief executive and the elected council leader Peter Nutting to resign or be removed when they fail," said Mr Harris.

“I feel very sorry for the Shropshire Council tax payer when they elect and hire people to preside over such shambles.

“From requiring a simple apology will now require hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation for reputation and legal fees, along with making Shropshire a no go place for business and putting local people’s jobs at risk.

“Our county needs a new broom through the political class.”

The fiasco has rumbled on for months, and saw the council say it had missed opportunities to claim back the grant money.

Council leader Peter Nutting has previously said the situation was a “cock up and not a conspiracy”.

Shropshire Council says it is determined to force The New Saints to repay the money.

It said it would be making no further comment while the matter is dealt with legally.

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