£80,000 TNS grant row: Former Shropshire Council leader Keith Barrow speaks out for the first time
Former Shropshire Council leader Keith Barrow has spoken out for the first time about a controversial £80,000 grant given to The New Saints football club under his reign.
Mr Barrow was the council leader in 2012, when the £80,000 legacy grant was given to Oswestry-based The New Saints FC.
The council says the grant was given on the understanding that TNS would pay out £16,000 a year over five years to the Oswestry Economic Board, which would then distribute the money to local projects and schemes.
However, it has since emerged that only payment of £10,000 was made.
The council is now taking legal action against the football club to recover the remainder of the money, while TNS owner Mike Harris has previously claimed the money did not need to be paid back if certain terms were met.
- IN DEPTH: The saga of the £80k TNS grant
Mr Barrow today said he believed the problems stemmed from the economic board not being set up correctly.
And he called on all parties, including Mr Harris, to sit down together to resolve the matter.
“I don’t want to interfere with the current administration," Mr Barrow said.
“What I will say is the economic board was set up in a transparent way.
"All other areas of Shropshire dealt with it through county councillors but this board had four town councillors and four Shropshire councillors on it.
"At the time a grant had been agreed. But we couldn’t support private companies so it was set up in this way with an agreement.
“I believe officers had an issue setting it up. [Current Shropshire Council leader] Councillor Peter Nutting called it 'a cock-up and not a conspiracy' and I think that is it. If it was set up properly, Mike Harris would have given the money back.”
Mr Barrow called for Mr Harris to sit in a room with Councillor Nutting and council chief executive Clive Wright to “sort it out”, adding: “The situation is not good for anyone as it is causing a cost to the public.”
Mr Barrow, who resigned as the leader of the council and as a councillor in December 2015, said the grant money – used to install more seats to allow TNS to host European fixtures – had been beneficial to the town.
“It has benefitted Oswestry by having those games,” he said. “Hotels and places in the town were booked it up and it has provided a boost.”
In July, Shropshire Council admitting failings in not recovering the money, including officers leaving the council.
Gareth Proffitt for Shropshire Council said: “We have commenced court proceedings and are therefore unable to make any further comment during the course of the litigation.”