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TNS £80k grant: Opposition attacks council 'censorship' and calls for full details to be made public

By Mark Andrews | Oswestry | Politics | Published:

Shropshire Council’s opposition Liberal Democrat group called for the full details of the deal with the club to be made public when it first emerged earlier this year that the money had not been repaid.

Liberal Democrat councillors Andy Boddington, left, and Roger Evans, right

Earlier this month the group’s leader, Councillor Roger Evans, said he had been threatened with police action if any confidential details were leaked.

Councillor Evans – who stressed he was not involved in leaking the report to the Shropshire Star – said he was glad the details were finally out.

“I’m concerned there is public money outstanding after six years,” he said.

“I will be asking performance scrutiny to look into this, and to invite ex-councillors and ex-officers to share their recollection of events, to fill in the gaps.

"We do need to get to the bottom of it."

Lessons

He said the council also needed to learn lessons from the report.

“I’m concerned that even now committees are being held and items discussed and nothing being minuted, and decisions are not fully published.”

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He also expressed his surprise that files were wiped.

The New Saints' ground at Park Hall

“I’m on a number of parish councils, and you should keep all your documents for six years,” said Councillor Evans.

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“I’m amazed these files have disappeared or could be wiped by mistake.”

He criticised the secrecy surrounding the matter.

“I think the public want to know what happened,” he said, adding that he was disappointed discussions surrounding the investigations had taken place behind closed doors.

Following pressure to publish the report, Shropshire Council issued a statement on July 18 admitting its management of the project ‘has not been satisfactory’.

The statement said the council was seeking to recover the money from the club.

Shropshire Council has said it will pursue TNS for the repayments

Councillor Andy Boddington, a fellow Liberal Democrat councillor, added: “The censorship is because this is one of the most embarrassing episodes in Shropshire Council’s short history.”

Councillor Boddington, who represents Ludlow, said the principle of allocating funds to revitalise market towns was a good one.

But he questioned whether football ground improvements were an appropriate use for funding to regenerate market towns.

“Quite what a football stand some way from Oswestry has to do with market town revitalisation, I do not know,” he said.

While Shropshire Council has now said it will be pursuing TNS to repay the money, the club’s chairman issued a defiant response.

Mike Harris accused the authority of damaging his club’s reputation and has demanded an apology.

Responding to the council’s statement on July 18, he wrote on Twitter: “By definition a grant is a grant and not repayable if its terms are met. This was not a loan.”

David Preston, clerk to Oswestry Town Council, said: “The town council has not received a copy of this report yet, but it has been made clear by our solicitor that this is an ongoing matter between Shropshire Council and TNS.”

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews
@MAndrews_Star

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

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