CALLS have been made for an external review of The New Saints funding saga.

Oswestry town councillors agreed with Councillor Duncan Kerr’s proposal for an independent audit into Shropshire Council providing £80,000 to the football club under the Market Towns Revitalisation programme in 2012.

Town clerk David Preston told councillors he had an informal discussion with solicitors who advised members needed to be aware of decisions that “may prejudice actions between TNS and Shropshire Council”.

He recommended councillors ask Shropshire Council to recover the money and ensure it is used for projects in the Oswestry area, as was originally intended.

A Shropshire Council audit found the authority awarded the grant to TNS and expected the club to pay £16,000 annually for five years for purposes agreed by the Oswestry Economic Board. A review found the board – administered by the town council and supported by Shropshire Council – did not agree criteria against which to award grants funded from the TNS repayments.

The council says money was awarded “under the appropriate available guidance” and that the original agreement “clearly set out the requirements and expectations of the grant”.

But the review found a number of opportunities were missed by the council to recover the money, to set up necessary processes and to seek repayment within a defined time limit.

A total of £70,000 is outstanding with £10,000 initially recovered and reimbursed to Oswestry Town Council.

Cllr Kerr said the audit report outlined 10 opportunities for repayment, “each of which were not taken for reasons which weren’t explained”.

He added the auditor was “unable to determine whether it was by accident or design”.

The fact Shropshire Council leader Cllr Peter Nutting said it had been an “administrative cock-up” was even more worrying, Cllr Kerr said. The audit had not given answers, he claimed, but raised many questions.

“At this time of austerity, to have this amount of mismanagement of public money is a pretty heinous thing,” he said.

Cllr Kerr called for the town council to write to Shropshire Council and ask for an external review.

It would, he said, be “an appropriate response to a very unfortunate matter”.

Councillors voted to support Cllr Kerr’s proposals. Claire Porter, Shropshire Council’s head of legal and democratic services, said: “We have commenced court proceedings and we are therefore unable to make any further comment during the course of the litigation.”

TNS owner Mike Harris last month showed the Advertizer documents which he said proved the money was a grant and that any repayments were on a voluntary basis. The club’s chief operating officer Ian Williams said the agreement with the council specifically mentioned Saints paying grants of £16,000 a year for five years on projects agreed by the Economic Board.

The criteria of the grants would be agreed by the board by December 2012 with delivery of annual grants from January 1, 2013. But the board was disbanded – and as it could not meet, no projects were ever discussed and the club were never asked to contribute to any projects.

“There was no vehicle for us sit around a table as a board to discuss projects,” he said. “It was a time-related agreement, from January 2013 for a five-year period.”