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Companies permitted to trade while insolvent during coronavirus crisis

Coronavirus: company rule changes protect firms trading while technically insolvent

As companies lose footfall, orders and customers and see their cash flow disappear, the Government’s business secretary Alok Sharma has announced plans to protect firms who are technically insolvent during the coronavirus crisis.

The wrongful trading law is to be suspended so as to protect directors who pay staff and suppliers while their firm has a drastically reduced income or indeed no income at all. The business secretary announced he will make changes to enable UK companies undergoing a rescue or restructure process to continue trading, giving them breathing space that could help them avoid insolvency.

This will also include enabling companies to continue buying supplies, such as energy, raw materials or broadband, while attempting a rescue, and temporarily suspending wrongful trading provisions retrospectively from 1 March 2020 for three months for company directors so they can keep their businesses going without the threat of personal liability.

Alok Sharma said: “The government is doing everything in its power to save lives and protect livelihoods during these unprecedented times. Applying a common-sense approach to regulation will ensure products are safe and reach the market without any unnecessary delay, getting vital protective equipment such as face masks to frontline staff as quickly as possible.”

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said: “The measures are designed to keep businesses afloat during the crisis when they don’t in reality have any business. Department stores, shopping centres, chain stores and many manufacturers have been left high and dry and in normal circumstances would seek administration. With no end date to the crisis uncertainty has infected British business from top to bottom. The changes will help many firms survive the emergency.”

The business minister said the wrongful trading law would be suspended to protect directors during the pandemic. The move will allow directors of companies to pay staff and suppliers even if there are fears the company could become insolvent.

For the British Chamber of Commerce Suren Thiru said: “Companies that were viable before the outbreak must be supported to ensure they can help power the recovery when the immediate crisis is over. Cashflow remains an urgent concern for many businesses, so it’s vital that government support packages reach businesses and people on the ground as soon as possible.”

ICSM Credit

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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The fall-out from the coronavirus crisis is not just the human cost – it’s the recession to come

COMMENT: the casualties of the coronavirus crisis includes the economy (and common sense)

Harry Speed fears the cure is as bad as the disease.

They say the first casualty of war is truth, but during the coronavirus crisis the first casualty is the economy (and the second casualty is common sense).

If you were to propose during a general election that if elected you would close down most businesses, shut schools and colleges and ban most people from going to work you would struggle to get a single vote. In March 2020 this is the new norm with so-called lock downs around the world as the authorities struggle to contain the coronavirus outbreak. Nobody doubts the need to do what is necessary to prevent the virus from killing more people but have we gone too far?

In almost all sectors the economy is in trouble. Markets are down the pound has lost ground against the dollar and euro and house sales have effectively been banned. Apart from food stores, chemists, petrol stations and a small number of essential retailers most businesses have shut their doors while 90% of commercial air planes grounded – and as for the holiday trade – forget it.Governments have declared the lock downs are only for a few weeks but if the numbers of those dying from the virus continues at a high level the situation could continue for months. This is mad.

The genie was out of the bottle in January and will continue to infect new victims for the next two or more years around the world. In the meantime the economy is sliding into a recession and possibly worse. It has to stop.There is no need to close down the entire economy. With social distancing measures and essential hygiene rules most stores could remain open from garden centres to department stores. Offices, factories and manufacturers could largely continue albeit at a lower level of production and public transport should be up and running – but again with common sense safety measures in place.

And there is no reason why pubs, cafes, bars and hotels cannot open under the same conditions. Without this suggested level of economic activity in place there will still be a recession and around a million people could lose their jobs. And many businesses will go the wall – some with the help of the banks all too eager to pull the plug on zombie businesses that have teetered on the brink for years.Without a partial reopening of the economy now or at the latest in mid-April things will only get worse and a global recession is on the cards.

If you look back to the various downturns of the past they take up to four years for things to get back to where they were before the crash.

The chancellor Rishi Sunak has outlined billions of pounds in grants and loans to companies to pay wages and keep firms afloat while thousands of non-essential Government and local authority staff have been sent home on full pay. The bill for the billions spent will have to be paid which means higher taxes from a depleted workforce and smaller business sector. Already so many of the loans being offered come with high levels of interest and demands for personal guarantees, the help for around a third of the self-employed comes with delays and red tape while the grants for firms are not as comprehensive as promised due to the complexities of staff contracts.The point is that unless the vast majority of the population contract the disease or there is an anti-virus jab available this spring, then the outbreak will continue with a lock down or not.

The Spanish Flu at the end of the Great War went on for years and so will coronavirus.The second casualty of this emergency is the disappearance of common sense. The ill-thought-out legislation rushed through parliament before the break, along with conflicting official advice has reduced the country to a land of curtain twitchers and panic buyers. Neighbours spy on neighbours – snitching on them for taking their dog for a second walk of the day. The police stop extended families from taking a stroll in their local park and send drones into the sky to film joggers taking a solo run across the moors. Shops and businesses have been boarded up for fear of looting, arsonists and thieves, and motorways normally busy with commercial traffic are largely silent.

The lock downs are instigated in the name of health. Shutting people in their homes for weeks on end will have a detrimental effect on their mental health and will no doubt lead to expensive social problems from domestic violence, alcoholism and a rise in online crime and fraud. Many of those people dying of coronavirus are seriously ill already. That is one of the inconvenient truths of the crisis which amid the hysteria and panic is being ignored.

There will be a reckoning. Mortgage payments are being missed, rents withheld and businesses are going bust. Carluccio’s, Brighthouse, Laura Ashley have gone for starters with a string of retailers and hospitality businesses unlikely to survive. Meanwhile the banks will see a chance to increase interest rates and call in loans on zombie businesses.

President Trump’s wish to get America open for business by Easter has been pilloried, but he has a point. Without a vibrant economy things fall apart very quickly. What Britain needs now is a vocal and articulate opposition to the policies coming out of Downing Street. The sooner the lawyer Keir Starmer and a revitalised opposition can start unpicking some of the emergency legislation the better. And the sooner the large numbers of Conservative backbenchers who are deeply concerned we are heading for a recession get their act together the sooner we can pull out of the economic nosedive. And hopefully common sense will once again return to those in charge.

ICSM Credit

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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How to survive the coronavirus crisis

To furlough or not to furlough as firms look to survive the emergency

To furlough or not to furlough is the question as cash flow dries up and business comes to a halt. ICSM Credit members are struggling to find ways to survive the current coronavirus crisias some high profile High Street names such as JD Wetherspoons and Rick Stein simply laying off staff to save money. On the other hand Sports Direct attempted to stay open but was closed down by the Government. Next closed its stores and tried to retain its online business only to find is near impossible due to staff illness and distribution issues.

ICSM Credit’s Ian Carrotte said: “One of the questions members of ICSM have raised is can they lay off their staff or have short time working to see their business through the next couple of months. ACAS the Government’s Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service is the place to start but like all employment law it is complex depending on what contracts are in operation.”

He said the most important actions to take are to draw up a survival plan with a view to restart business in June on a reduced scale.

“Number one is to chase up all outstanding invoices,” he said, “as most businesses have a couple of month’s cash flow at any one time. If the staff are furloughed and the Government picks up their wage bill then obviously that will help with overheads. If you have an office or factory that is not in operation then literally close it down and save on electricity.”

“Approach the landlords immediately for a rent holiday to see you through the crisis as well as looking at one of the Government loans. My main concern is if you do manage to jump through all the hoops,” he said, “and get a loan you will have to pay it back. It may be better to approach your current lender and ask for some breathing space or a temporary cut.”

He said many people in business are taking the opportunity to do all those jobs they never get round to. Going through all the old files on clients, updating sales contacts, cleaning and redecorating offices and getting rid of redundant equipment were other ideas.

Ian Carrotte said: “Anyone who has run a business or been self-employed will have known a lean period and has had to take a pay cut or reduced drawings. If your staff are taking a cut or being laid off then owners and directors need to follow suit if it means survival. A survival plan, cutting costs and planning for the restart will help all businesses to get through the crisis.”

ICSM Credit

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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Chancellor’s payments for the self-employed leave many left high and dry

Financial experts explain who in the 5 million self-employed will or won’t get help from the Government

Despite the long awaited plans by the chancellor Rishi Sunak for the self-employed outlined this week many will be left with nothing other than to claim benefits as business dries up.

The Government’s package promises to give the self-employed 80% of the their average monthly profits earned over the last three years up to £2,500. However those who have become self-employed in the last three years are left out, as are those in the gig economy and those on zero hours contracts but are effectively self-employed.

ICSM Credit’s Ian Carrotte said: “Nearly two million self-employed people will get no help from the scheme announced last night because they have only become self-employed recently such as those who own their own van or truck for deliveries. Start-up sign-makers and printers operating from a small business unit or even a lock-up are penalised as are a host of legitimate businesses who make up the backbone of the economy.”

Advice

The financial journalist and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Moneybox programme Paul Lewis echoed Ian Carrotte’s words. He said: “It is wrong to say only 5% are left out. It is about a third including people who have started self-employment this tax year and those who make too little to pay tax.

“The Self-employed Income Support Scheme is based on profits not turnover. So people who have ploughed money back into capital expect to grow the business and taken little out as profits will get much less than those who have taken more out as profits.”

ITV

And the other Lewis, namely Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert.com  appeared on ITV’s The Money Show soon after the chancellor’s announcements to help explain the scheme. He said: “The profits are averaged over three years. That’s up to the 2019 tax year – the one that ended in 2019. If your profits are over £50,000 on average – even £50,000 and a penny – you don’t get anything. It’s a cliff-hanger. You can still keep working during this time.”

“It’s paid as a lump sum in June, but it’ll be backdated for three months. So, effectively, you’ll get March, April and May’s money in June as a lump sum.”

Unanswered questions

There were many unanswered questions in the package said Ian Carrotte. He commented: “Many businesses don’t have the reserves if they have only been trading a short while and these last few months have been a lean time for a huge chunk of the economy. To ask firms to wait until June or later this summer will mean more firms going into administration or simply shutting up shop for good. We accept it is a complex job but time is of the essence and unfortunately Governments and their civil servants don’t work under the same time pressures the commercial sector does.”

ICSM Credit

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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ICSM Credit warns suppliers of holiday firms, airlines and travel agents to ‘chase unpaid invoices’ as sector collapses

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said the coronavirus crisis has hit suppliers to one of the main sectors of the economy – namely the holiday, aviation and travel industries.

“We’ve had a lot of feedback from members who supply these industries,” he said, “they include printers, sign-makers, self-employed contractors of all types and transport firms and they are all very worried over getting paid. Plus they don’t see any future work if some of these household names go into administration. People said Thomas Cook were too big to fail – now a number of firms are in trouble as planes are grounded and holidays cancelled.”

The chancellor Rishi Sunak has said the Government were not minded to bail out airlines following a request from Virgin Atlantic for £7bn and instructed them to seek cash from shareholders. Only as a last resort would he consider any type of support.

Pleading their case the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said the industry was facing a wipe out as ticket sales had collapsed with the majority of planes grounded worldwide.

Ian Carrotte said credit lines to airlines, airports and holiday firms should not be extended by suppliers as there was a real danger many of those businesses would not pay up if they collapsed.

“Keep a tight grip on credit control,” he said, “outstanding invoices should be chased down and members of ICSM Credit can use our free legal letters to put pressure on reluctant payers. It is likely that some companies are using the coronavirus crisis as an excuse not to pay.”

ICSM Credit

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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ICSM Credit calls for clarity for construction industry during coronavirus crisis as ‘firms could become insolvent’

Construction industry representatives are in talks with the Government as they seek clarification over to work or not to work.

Projects such as HS2 have been paused along with Crossrail while other building firms such as Redrow and construction of Hinckley Point C in Somerset where 4,000 people are engaged in building the nuclear power station.

Ian Carrotte of ICSM said there needed to be urgent clarity as huge numbers of contractors were involved in the Hinkley project with a supply chain that need to know what was happening. Any delays in payment to contractors due to the crisis could be catastrophic for the industry.

“With so many construction projects halted there’s a danger that some will slip into insolvency,” he said. “ICSM Credit welcomes the three month extension to the deadline for filing accounts but it doesn’t solve the problem long term of cash flow.”

He said many contractors in the industry were self-employed tradesmen or one or two man businesses who may not qualify for the grants offered by the Government.

ICSM Credit offers those in the construction industry membership of the credit intelligence group who inform members of which firms are in trouble and not paying invoices.

ICSM Credit

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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COMMENT: Is shutting down the economy the best way to tackle coronavirus?

Harry Mottram asks for tolerance for those with alternative views on the crisis

Twitter and social media is creating an environment where nobody is allowed to diverge from the accepted way to tackle to the menace of coronavirus. The near universal view is that to end the crisis we must lockdown populations, ban socialising and force non-essential businesses to shut up shop.

Anyone who dares to suggest a more nuanced or relaxed view to the orthodoxy is immediately told to shut up by a host of keyboard warriors on the Twittersphere and by commenters in general.

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been criticised for his initial hesitation in imposing draconian measures to restrict the public from normal activities like going for a walk with friends. In part the lockdown rubs up against his natural libertarian views of freedom of choice and as he said the public’s inalienable right to go to the pub. That hesitation was blown away when it was seen that large numbers of people flouted the initial advice to avoid crowding in shops, pubs and parks.

Peter Hitchens in the Daily Mail was widely criticised for his article entitled ‘Is shutting down Britain REALLY the right answer?’ His suggestion that restricting the economy and enforcing lockdowns may not be the answer was treated by critics as though he suggested the nation should start eating new born babies. He questioned the suspension of civil liberties while on the crashing of the economy he wrote: “The incessant coverage of health scares and supermarket panics has obscured the dire news coming each hour from the stock markets and the money exchanges.”

Likewise Brendan O’Neill writing in The Spectator was concerned that closing pubs was a step too far. He wrote: “But to halt everyday life, even pub life, in response to it? We didn’t do that during the far worse 1918 flu epidemic. Or during the Second World War. Or when the IRA was bombing actual pubs. We carried on. The pub continued. It had to. It’s the space where people meet and debate and fall in love and read their newspaper.”

Critics such as the Labour MP David Lammy and others react to these renegades calling them dangerous and irresponsible when they are simply articulating a different opinion.

I’m not a fan of the President of the USA Donald Trump but when he said this week he wanted to get the American economy restarted he had a point. Without a healthy economy there are fewer jobs and businesses fail leaving many high and dry and in debt. It may not be the answer in halting the spread of coronavirus and is at odds with medical opinion but there is an element of truth. The shutdowns are killing business.

In defence of these alternative views the self-employed, the unemployed and those on zero hours contracts have been left out of the Government’s rescue plans so far. And despite the chancellor’s rescue packages many businesses will not qualify for the loans. They are being left to fend for themselves while many in both the public and private sectors on salaries are being protected.

There is a substantial body of opinion that is not convinced by the current lockdowns and crashing of the economy. But to shut these people up is not the way forward for a democracy that is having its basic liberties reduced. People may point to China as to how the have apparently defeated the virus but this country is not a totalitarian one party police state where the mildest criticism is met with torture, beatings and prison. A different point of view should be cherish and discussed for its pros and cons and not shut down.

Harry Mottram is a freelance journalist.

For details of his work visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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AGENDA WEST Business News: ICSM Credit on coronavirus and how different industries are coping by diversifying, not paying rent, laying off staff or simply closing their doors

“Surviving difficult times calls for difficult decisions,” said Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit, “but to survive the coronavirus crisis business needs to take action now. Act early and hopefully those in business will be able to pick up the pieces in the summer with their operation still intact.”

His words appear to have been heeded by many in business as the likes of Burger King, Carluccio’s and Yo! Sushi are among hundreds of firms making the difficult call to withhold their rents while others are putting up the shutters to wait for the economic storm to pass.

Rents withheld by closed traders

The Financial Times reported today: “Alasdair Murdoch, chief executive of Burger King UK, said he would skip rent payments due on the chain’s more than 500 British restaurants to free up funds to pay staff, after the government announced that those who did not pay would not forfeit their lease. Landlords are locked in frantic negotiations with shops and restaurants ahead of Wednesday — when quarterly rents are due across British high streets — after the government ordered pubs, restaurants and many other businesses to close at the end of last week. Many retail and leisure companies, which typically operate on thin margins, said that with no revenue coming in, paying rent would mean they could not pay staff until the government’s support for wages came through.”

Many of the larger retailers have said they will continue to pay staff while their doors are closed – although it is thought this is on the proviso they are able to access the promise of part of the salaries paid by the Government. And it hinges to a certain extent on how long the crisis continues. Clearly if it is a year then all bets are off. 

Builders carry on but DIY stores close

In construction and inline with the Government shutting stores Travis Perkins, Jewson, Howdens and Huws Gray Ridgeons are among builders’ merchants closing their doors. The board of directors of construction outfit Kier have agreed to take a 20% pay cut for three months according to Construction Index but have warned the workers that they will also have to take pay cuts and is offering unpaid leave for staff. A row has broken over construction workers who have to travel in crowded trains or vans to work and then have to share canteens, toilets and other facilities. Clearly it is not possible to social distance in those circumstances but it has at present been left up to employers to decide if it is safe to keep working.

Printers see orders cancelled

Many printers are weighing up whether to close during the emergency or to keep on printing. Print Week’s Richard Sturat Turner reported: “The majority of UK printers appear to have remained open for business, albeit often with adapted operations and having to cope with a swathe of cancelled jobs.” However that was four days ago – a long time in the present crisis – and since then the free newspaper in London City AM has stopped operations in part due to the fall off in the numbers of commuters who are its main readers. Although free newspapers and most print publications are considering the immediate future as advertisers pull their ads.

Laying off workers

Letting staff go is one the hardest tasks given to any management as it inevitably leads to bad feeling and potentially problems in the future to rehire workers. It also brings a drop in moral in those left as a skeleton operation to keep the business alive. The biggest shedders of staff are those who employ workers on zero-hours contracts. They include temps, hospitality workers and supply teachers who are often employed via an agency or an outsourcing firm. One such outfit is Aramak who dismissed their contract workers by text this week. The only option for the employees is to seek job seekers allowance or find a new job.

Government loan scheme for companies

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) with an annual turnover of less than £45m can apply for an interest-free loan of up to £5m to help them through Covid-19 related difficulties. The government will provide a grant payment to cover the interest and initial fees for the first 12 months, and will guarantee 80% of the loan amount to give banks and financial companies the confidence to lend. Under the scheme, which will initially run for six months, businesses will be able to borrow for up to six years. They will be liable to repay the money in full – the guarantee is for the lenders, not the borrowers.

Ian Carrotte said the wheels of Government work slowly and getting one of the loans may not be quick. He said: “Firms will have to prove that they are viable businesses which have been trading successfully, but just need extra support to deal with short term difficulties caused by the current disruption. Some firms may not be successful so don’t get your hopes up that this is not a panacea.”

Diversify into a new area

There has been much coverage of F1 teams working in collaboration with the Government,  Innovate UK, the High Value Manufacturing Catapult team and UCL and University College London Hospitals to develop ventilators for the NHS. But there are other options for less glamorous companies to keep working during the crisis.

Fiat’s car plant in China is to start making face masks while motor car plants in the UK and Europe have agreed in principle to start making ventilators although gearing up to manufacture them isn’t an overnight operation.

A lifeline has been offered to hotels, restaurants, cafes and pubs by the Government in the form of take-away food. While Greggs and MacDonalds have close many companies in the hospitality industries have swiftly converted part of their business to supply groceries and hot and cold take-out food and drink. Other firms such as newsagents who are allowed to remain open have increased their product range to help supply the demand for food, toiletries and cleaning products.

Ian Carrotte said: “Necessity is the mother of invention as the old phrase goes as it has never been more true in these times. My message to firms who have been forced to close is to look at what resources you have and consider an alternative use for them. Vans used to deliver print could be drafted into the logistics sector while there’s no reason why a café can become an impromptu food shop as they have the supply chain already in place.”

He said one of the best options for businesses was to join ICSM Credit to get inside information from members on which businesses were not paying their invoices and so to avoid. He said: “The best safeguard is to protect your credit control and that’s where ICSM Credit can help.”

ICSM Credit

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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Retailing nightmare for Joules, Burberry, Next, Selfridges, Zara, Superdry: sales fall off a cliff

Coronavirus: retail crisis mounts as Zara closes its doors

As the mounting crisis caused by the Government’s actions over coronavirus continues a string of big names in the High Street are warning that sales have dropped off a cliff.

Zara is closing temporarily closing more than 3700 stores as it looks to survive the emergency laying off staff and shutting up shop. It follows the decision by Selfridges in London who have shut their doors after staff members contracted the virus.

The crisis has already claimed Flybe and Carphone Warehouse, while Laura Ashley, H&M and Mountain Warehouse have all been hit laying off thousands of workers.

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said this was just the tip of the iceberg. “If the Government is correct in predicting the lockdown of parts of the business community such as hospitality, travel and some sections of retailing will continue for 12 weeks or more then there will be casualties. ICSM members hear the inside information on who is in trouble first. It is vital for suppliers of these big stores to cut credit or they will lose out when a big retailer goes bust.”

Joules, Burberry, Next, Selfridges and Superdry have all reported a major drop in footfall and have signalled they have financial problems, while more names are joining the long list of firms feeling the pinch.

ICSM Credit

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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ICSM Credit welcomes delay to IR35 which would increase tax on some self-employed workers

Ian Carrotte: self-employed need help ‘not a cut in their income’

A new tax aimed at the self-employed that was due to take effect this April has been put back 12 months due to the coronavirus emergency.

In an unexpected announcement to the House of Commons last night, Steve Barclay, the chief secretary to the Treasury, confirmed the reforms would now be postponed until April 2021.

IR35 allows HMRC to collect additional payment where a contractor is an employee in all but name. Andy Chamberlain, of the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed said: “The government has done the sensible thing by delaying the changes to IR35 in the private sector. These changes have already undermined the incomes of many self-employed businesses across the UK. However, they would have done even more serious damage if they had gone ahead as planned.”

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit welcomed the move as several members of the credit intelligence group had expressed concerns with those in the construction industry particularly affected. He said: “It is a sensible step in this grave and unprecedented situation. The Government must also create an emergency Income Protection Fund to keep the self-employed businesses going.”

This he said it would allow the economy to pick up quickly once the crisis is over rather than suffering from a hang-over in the shape of a depression.

The Government issued this explanation of IR35: “The off-payroll working rules can apply if a worker (sometimes known as a contractor) provides their services through an intermediary. An intermediary will usually be the worker’s own personal service company, but could also be any of the following: a partnership, a managed service company, or an individual

“The rules make sure that workers, who would have been an employee if they were providing their services directly to the client, pay broadly the same tax and National Insurance contributions as employees. These rules are sometimes known as ‘IR35’.”

ICSM Credit

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

Picture: Women’s Leadership Daily

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ICSM credit reacts to the chancellor’s £350bn package

‘We need help for the self-employed and to fast track the business loans on offer’

The headlines today suggest the Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled a £350bn package to help the economy survive the next three months but closer scrutiny suggests it may not be enough. His package includes a business rates holiday for the hospitality sector, help for home mortgage payers, and interest free loans for companies.

ICSM Credit’s Ian Carrotte said it was a start but the main issue was the small print and red tape that was likely to be involved meaning by the time a firm has accessed a survival loan it could be too late. He said: “I agree with the Helen Dickinson of the British Retail Consortium who said she wanted to see the details. We don’t want bureaucracy to slow things up. Adam Marshall, chief executive of the British Chambers of Commerce also echoed those sentiments when he said it was vital the cash gets to the front line quickly. So big promises from Sunak but they need to be backed up with action.”

He was also concerned by the lack of help for the self-employed. “Many businesses in the printing, haulage, construction and courier industries are one person firms. Work is drying up for many one man businesses so they need financial help as their overheads don’t stop overnight.”

The retail and hospitality sectors have already been hit hard. Ian Carrotte welcomed the rates holiday for the hospitality sector but was critical of the Government advice to the public to avoid going to pubs and restaurants. He said if the Government had ordered their closure then their insurance policies would have kicked in but instead they have to decide to either shut up shop and lay off their staff or struggle on with diminished trade.

Ian Carrotte said the biggest issue now for many firms was staying solvent as cash flow dries up. He said: “By joining ICSM Credit now they can find out which firms are likely to go bust and now pay their invoices. To join is less than a tank for diesel so it’s a wise investment – which could see you survive the crisis in tact ready for the improvement that will eventually follow.”

ICSM Credit

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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Coronavirus: which companies are in trouble

AGENDA WEST BUSINESS NEWS: Laura Ashley, Carphone Warehouse, Cycle Republic – who is next? 

The mounting economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis is has seen a string of big names getting into financial trouble as cash flow dries up.

Laura Ashley has filed for administration blaming the coronavirus outbreak as a deal breaker in rescue talks.

Carphone Warehouse has blamed the change in how people buy mobile phones rather than the virus for closing its 531 standalone stores next month throwing 2,900 people out of work.

Alex Baldock of the company said consumers were increasingly buying online and from its big stores – which sell computers and TVs as well as mobiles – instead of its smaller, standalone mobile shops.

He said: “They can’t find all this in the small mobile-only stores that are one-twentieth of the size; they’re visiting these less and these stores are losing more money as a result.”

The retailer has shops inside 305 big PC World and Curry’s stores, and these will be not affected by the changes said Alex Baldock.

Writing in Building Hamish Champ reported on the construction giant Costain’s drop in value due to the coronavirus crisis. He reported: “Shares in Costain slumped a whopping 40% this morning, valuing the troubled contractor at just £38m, as fears around the impact of the coronavirus epidemic shook investor confidence to the core. The group’s shares were trading at 35p at the time of writing, but have been falling in value since last week, when it announced it had slumped into the red in 2019, revealing pre-tax losses of nearly £7m.”

Reuters are reporting on the plight of airlines. They said the owner of British Airways and easyJet, Europe’s no.3 and no.4 airlines, said they would ground aircraft on an unprecedented scale in a battle to survive the travel restrictions and European lockdowns now convulsing the industry. Meanwhile Virgin Atlantic are also in crisis laying off staff on unpaid leave and asking the Government for a multi billion pound bail out.

“European aviation faces a precarious future and it is clear that coordinated government backing will be required to ensure the industry survives and is able to continue to operate when the crisis is over,” easyJet’s CEO Johan Lundgren said in a statement.

Retail Week’s Grace Bowden reports: “H&M will temporarily close hundreds of stores across Europe in a bid to battle the spread of coronavirus as its quarterly sales in China were hit by the pandemic.”

Also in retailing Cycle Republic is closing all its stores while Primark is shutting some of its European stores after Governments in Italy, Spain and France have ordered lockdowns.

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit urged all suppliers to these big names to be very strict with credit. He said: “We’ve seen how famous brands will use moral blackmail over suppliers suggesting they will not have further orders if they don’t extend credit. Carillion and Jamie Oliver’s Italian used the tactic and then collapsed owing suppliers millions. Be strict with credit – and join us in ICSM to protect your business and be in the loop of who is in trouble and not paying their invoices.”

In manufacturing Reuters are reporting Volkswagen Group will suspend production this week at plants in Italy, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain while Airbus has announced plans to halt operations at its plants in France and Spain for four days as the coronavirus crisis spread from battered airlines to the manufacturing sector.

ICSM Credit

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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Hospitality sector reacts to coronavirus advice

Pic Morning Advertiser

Anger at Government advice to ‘avoid pubs’ as hospitality industry takes the hit

Following the Government’s press conference yesterday in which they said the public should avoid going to pubs the trade group UK Hospitality responded: “Commenting on the Government’s latest advice that people should avoid pubs, restaurants, hotels, theatres and other hospitality and leisure businesses.

“This is catastrophic for businesses and jobs.  The government has effectively shut the hospitality industry without any support, and this announcement will lead to thousands of businesses closing their doors for good, and hundreds of thousands of job losses.

“Over the past few weeks the industry has suffered unprecedented drops in visits and many business are already on their knees.  This latest advice leaves the industry in limbo, with no recourse to insurance.

“The Government must act now to stop them going under and protect the people’s jobs. These venues play a unique role as community hubs and it’s in all our interests to protect and preserve them so they are still there once we emerge from this crisis.

“We need immediate and far-reaching support from the government, and meaningful business continuity measures.”

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit urged all suppliers to these big names to be very strict with credit. He said: “We’ve seen how famous brands will use moral blackmail over suppliers suggesting they will not have further orders if they don’t extend credit. Carillion and Jamie Oliver’s Italian used the tactic and then collapsed owing suppliers millions. Be strict with credit – and join us in ICSM to protect your business and be in the loop of who is in trouble and not paying their invoices.”

ICSM Credit

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

Picture: Morning Advertiser

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Global economic crisis unfolds as stocks fall in coronavirus panic

Companies on the brink with the economy on the slide as coronavirus panic sees cash flow drying up and businesses in a crisis

Worst economic situation since 2008’s Credit Crunch

The British economy is heading for a recession and the worst economic prospects since the global credit crisis in 2008.

This time it’s not sub-prime mortgages irresponsibly sold by the likes of the Lehman Brothers in New York but a virus thought to have crossed to humans from dead animals in a Chinese market. Although it is unlikely to be as bad as the so-called Spanish flu outbreak in 1919-20 which took up to 50 million lives the coronavirus is killing hundreds (and indeed thousands) of people around the world.

One of its victims is the economy with stocks falling in markets around the globe, companies laying off staff and shops and businesses being closed by Government decree.

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said having seen at least four recessions over the last few years this is the most sudden and unexpected. He said: “There’s a kind of global hysteria about toilet rolls and hygienic cleaning gel but the real problem is business is slowing down as a result of shut downs and travel bans. The issue is that when a business is halted its overheads are not and that quickly produces a cash flow crisis leading to firms ceasing trading.”

He said ICSM Credit members were already raising the alarm as clients began to put the brakes on payment as cash flow dries up. WH Smith has issued a profit warning after the outbreak has hit its shops at airports while Cineworld’s shares have fallen by 40% and travel firms have seen a dramatic drop in customers with airlines the worst affected. The UFI global trade shows have seen over 500 events cancelled costing the industry £23bn in lost trade in the last four weeks with the NEC’s Sign and Digital the latest cancellation.

On the High Street it’s the future of Intu one of theUK’s biggest shopping centres that’s in doubt as it admits it may go under in the next few days. The firm owns Manchester’s Trafford Centre and the Lakeside complex in Essex.

Ian Carrotte said the Government needed to be seen to be taking control and to breath confidence back into the business community with its actions. However he said there was one piece of good news and that was the historic firm Axminster Carpets had been bought out of administration by ACL Carpets and would live to fight another day.

ICSM Credit

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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The Budget: good news on business rates but worries over the coronavirus effect on business from Axbridge Chamber of Commerce member ICSM Credit

ICSM Credit has given a cautious welcome to the contents of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s first budget in the House of Commons with some concerns over the effects of the corona virus crisis.

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said the economy had begun to get back to normal in the New Year but the outbreak of the coronavirus had thrown it into reverse gear.

He said: “We welcome the chancellor’s plans to combat the disease with help for the NHS and the £500m hardship fund to help vulnerable people. Firms with fewer than 250 staff will be refunded for sick pay payments for two weeks which is welcome as they make up the bulk of commerce. Small firms hit by the outbreak can technically apply for the ‘business interruption’ loans which is good and we are particularly pleased that business rates in England will be abolished for firms in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors with a rateable value below £51,000.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the National Insurance Contributions tax threshold was to rise from £8,632 to £9,500 saving employees just over £100 a year and for women VAT has been scrapped on sanitary products although these changes are not immediate.

“All businesses will be delighted by the freeze on fuel duty,” commented Ian Carrotte, “as it is a tax on business whether it is a courier company, an international haulage firm or simply the salesman in his car visiting customers. And the hospitality industry will be relieved over the freeze on booze as we need to boost trade in pubs and restaurants with lower taxes to encourage people to go out and socialise and spend.”

He said the elephant in the room was what sort of deal would be agreed on Brexit as there was concern the coronavirus crisis could affect negotiations but welcomed the news that the system of business rates to be reviewed later this year.

“Business rates have been a brake on business for years,” he said, “they are often unfair and penalise small firms and high street shops when giants like Amazon seem to pay proportionately much less.”

The chancellor also said the entrepreneurs’ Relief will be retained, but lifetime allowance will be reduced from £10m to £1m and there would be £5bn spent on getting gigabit-capable broadband to rural places.

Other points were an investment by the Government of £900m for research into nuclear fusion, space and electric vehicles while VAT on digital publications, including newspapers, books and academic journals to be scrapped from December.

ICSM Credit has many members in the printing and packaging industries which will be facing a new plastic packaing tax which will come into force from April 2022. Several of the major paper suppliers to the print industry and they will no doubt be relieved that paper and card which are entirely recyclable will become back in vogue for a variety of packaging products due to the potential cost differential. Manufacturers and importers whose products have less than 30% recyclable material will be charged £200 per tonne.

More than £600bn is set to be spent on roads, rail, broadband and housing by the middle of 2025 which will help businesses in general – assuming it all goes ahead. Ian Carrotte said there was a note of caution on all the promises of infrastructure as the economy was only set to grow by 1% this year which din not take into account the impact of coronavirus.

He said: “This is the slowest growth since 2009 and the Credit Crunch so all I can say is I hope the sunny weather of spring and summer will arrive early to kill of the virus as business can do what it does best and that’s to do business.”

ICSM Credit

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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ICSM credit’s view on cynical directors who wish to dump debt

Concerns mount over phoenix operations after trade publication raises question over collapsed firm

Print Week have charted the demise of Symposium Print based in South Wales while at the same time have in effect also raised the issue of phoenix operations.

Phoenix firms being ones that rise from the ashes of the collapsed company. Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit has a seasoned view of the phenomena. He said: “We have seen several cases where company directors appear to have pre-planned a phoenix by preparing ahead of a potential company collapse. They register a new company name and switch the assets where possible from the existing company in trouble to the newly listed one.”

Writing in Print Week Hannah Jordan and Rhys Handley have reported on Symposium Print and Andrew Studley who is the sole director of Promising Print registered last October. They reported: “Stewart Bennett of ST Bennett & Co was appointed liquidator of the company on 20 February, following a meeting of creditors on the same day. A winding-up petition had been filed against the printer by solicitors Irwin Mitchell on 27 January 2020 at Birmingham District Registry, on behalf of petitioner Andrew Lewis, and a hearing had been set for 24 March. Symposium Print was established on 5 March 2018 under the directorship of Andrew Studley and 12 months later the company bought the assets of Symposium Design & Print, of which Studley is also the sole registered director, when it fell into administration after nine years of trading.

“According to Studley, Symposium Print stopped trading a year ago and he has now chosen to liquidate the company because he ‘did not need it anymore’. He declined to comment further. A notice for compulsory strike-off of Symposium Print Ltd was posted in May 2019 and then action was suspended in June.”

In the popular comments section of Print Week one contributor makes the point that as long as paper merchants, press manufacturers and other firms continue to supply a company that they think may be a phoenix then the process will continue.

Ian Carrotte said the victims were always the staff who often don’t get paid and have to claim statutory redundancy pay and the suppliers whose invoices are left unpaid.

He said: “Cynics will point to the fact it is often the same people who are behind one collapsed firm are the same ones involved in the new. It’s not a new phenomena, but in ICSM Credit we always warn members of a potential phoenix and not to give credit under any circumstances as the chances are they won’t get paid.”

Last November Print Week reported on the collapse of Cannock-based KJB and Creative Digital Printing Solutions which relates to the current story. They reported: “It is understood that KJB and Creative have continued to trade through the administration period and according to a source close to the business have been acquired out of administration by a new firm called Promising Print. According to Companies House the business was incorporated on 8 November 2019 under the sole directorship of Andrew Studley, and is trading under the names KJB Lytho and CDP Digital. Studley is also the registered director of Prints-It Ltd, incorporated on 15 July 2019, and Symposium Print, incorporated on 5 March 2018 at the same address. A former company, Symposium Design & Print, was registered under Studley’s name in January 2010 but fell into administration in March this year and was dissolved in September. It’s assets were acquired by Symposium Print.”

The Insolvency Service points out that ‘phoenixing’ is not illegal unless there is misconduct by the directors. This includes: causing significant harm to customers, suppliers, etc; misusing a company’s assets (eg using or taking company assets for personal benefit); breaking the law (eg fraud or not complying with regulations); trading while insolvent when there is no hope of the company recovering.

ICSM Credit

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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Trade shows cancelled, orders dry up and companies on the brink

From struggling Korean Air to the cancelling of the NEC Sign & Digital show coronavirus is hitting business

Coronavirus warning: freeze spending, cut costs and prepare for a tough year (but things will improve)

Not since the Credit Crunch of 2008 has there been such a sudden collapse in global business confidence with stocks dropping and economies from China to Chile taking a nose dive.

Axbridge Chamber of Commerce member Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit warned last week that firms involved in air travel, hospitality, events and holidays would be the first to be hit by the coronavirus outbreak. As Governments around the world have called for major restrictions placed on a raft of activities from football matches to nightclubs business at all levels is taking a hit. Within hours of Ian Carrotte’s prophesy Flybe went into administration and since then the numbers of companies ceasing trading has risen rapidly as cash flow dries up.

Ian Carrotte said: “Virgin Atlantic cannot keep flying empty planes while Korean Airlines are on the brink having slashed 80% of their international flights. In Somerset Tods Aerospace have called in administrators this week while many of ICSM Credit members will be hit by the cancellation of the Sign &Digital Show at the NEC next month. Traditionally the graphics, printing, signage and communication industries converge on Birmingham for their industrial updates which means deals and orders won’t be made.”

However Ian Carrotte believes the downturn is just the beginning of the crisis as China slashes 90% of its car production and even the Geneva Car Show has been cancelled.

He said: “There is more to this crisis than we are hearing about as so many medics are pointing out that ordinary flu, malaria and measles. Yes it’s a serious illness for the elderly and infirm but either we are not being told the whole story or there’s something more behind the lockdowns and bans on gatherings.

“While large sections of business is being decimated manufacturers of tissues, toilet rolls, hygiene products and facemasks are making hay while the sun shines. And those online firms, internet traders, browsers, social media firms and delivery companies suddenly find they have an open market with fewer competitors.”

ICSM Credit has stressed that keeping a tight grip on credit control is essential and for the moment to put a freeze on inessential spending and even a recruitment block as cash flow dries up.

“As with all crisis’ this one will not run for ever,” Ian Carrotte noted, “we expect with the summer months things will return to normal and we then may get a resurgent economy so those who survive this downturn will be well positioned.”

Join the Chamber – the organisation for businesses in or connected to the town and the self-employed and interested parties

If you would like to join the Axbridge Chamber of Commerce or to be an interested party then send an email to harryfmottram@gmail.com with these details:

Name/s

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Telephone

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Sum up the business in 100 words

To join is only £10 a year – you can post a cheque to our membership secretart or give her a call to arrange payment.

Membership secretary: Pat Filer, The Parsonage, Parsonage Lane, Cheddar Road, Axbridge, Somerset BS26 2DN. Tel (01934) 733078

Officers:

Harry Mottram, secretary to Axbridge Chamber of Commerce

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More at
http://www.harrymottram.co.uk/axbridge-chamber-of-commerce/

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ICSM Credit

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

Picture: Jakarta Post

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Firms emerge from CVAs with changed business plans – but there’s a warning that they can still collapse – so be careful with credit terms warns ICSM Credit

A couple of high profile companies who entered into company voluntary arrangements (CVA) due to financial problems are set to emerge with changed business plans.

CVAs have been used by DIY store Homebase and haulage firm Premier Logistics to remain in business this year. Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said: “CVAs allow a company to agree with its creditors to pay its debts over a set period of time. But for the arrangement to go ahead, creditors representing 75% of the debts must approve the proposal.”

Homebase says it will come out of its CVA later this spring and around 18 months early having reshaped its operation. To cut costs it has closed 77 stores and renegotiated rents on 75 stores although it has declined to say how they have reduced an estimated £180m in overheads.

Ian Carrote said despite this the news should be greeted with caution as Mothercare and Carpetright came out of CVAs only to collapse later on. He said Premier Logistics vowed to go back to basics in its attempt to continue trading which at least suggested the firm had admitted it had over reached itself – a common fault of over ambition.

Chris Tindall writing in Motor Transport noted: “The haulier said it is now ready to compete on a level footing after restructuring its finances in 2018 via a CVA in the face of a £5.7m shortfall to its creditors. HMRC forced through a revision to the original terms, which would have meant the company making monthly contributions over five years.

“However, Premier Logistics said this term was later reduced as part of a settlement accepted by creditors and HMRC and the CVA ended in February. The Leicestershire company said it had concentrated on its core services, stripped back its assets, separated out non-profitable contracts and focused on ‘a core group of loyal customers.’”

Last year Aradia was saved with a three year CVA meaning high street stores Topshop, Miss Selfridge and Wallis will survive but in reduced numbers. 25 stores with close and 500 workers will lose their jobs.

Ian Carrotte warned members of ICSM Credit and businesses in general to be on high alert for famous firms asking to extend credit or simply not paying suppliers on time. He said: “As soon as a company fails to pay an invoice on time the warning lights should start flashing. The problem we see over and over again is for suppliers to be told by their client that they just need a little more time – or even if they don’t accept the excuses they won’t get any more work.”

ICSM Credit

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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Construction industry ‘has a problem with late payment’

Tom Lowe writing for the website Building has looked at a report by M&DH Insurance on the issue of payment within the construction industry and whether things have improved.

After the debacle of Carillion when suppliers and contractors to the monolith were expected to wait up to four months to be paid – with many never receiving a penny – Lowe reports there has been a   slight improvement in the conduct of accounts departments issuing payment.

He reported: “Three-quarters of the UK’s 100 largest contractors have shown no significant improvement on payment times in the past two years, according to new research. Only the top 25% of the leading contractors based on turnover have increased the pace at which they pay their bills by more than four days since 2018, a report by M&DH Insurance has revealed.”

The situation is pretty depressing for the average contractor. Despite the Government’s Prompt Payment Code (PPC) setting out a 30 day target for payment because it is voluntary there’s little evidence things have improved since Carillion.

Lowe reports: “When average numbers of days taken to pay bills were calculated, the top quartile were found to be paying suppliers 12 days earlier. The three other quartiles – those firms occupying positions 26 to 100 – improved by no more than 4.2 days, with the second quartile improving its payment times by just 0.2 days since 2018. 

“While the proportion of bills paid after 60 days by the UK’s largest 25 contractors fell by 12%, this figure grew among the smallest 25 contractors surveyed by over 2%. And while the proportion of bills paid within 30 days by the largest 25 contractors grew by 18.5%, among the smallest 25 the figure fell by 5.5%. This is despite a law introduced in April 2017 obliging firms to publish half-yearly reports on their payment practices.”

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said: “This is not good enough as there are still too many construction firms who by internal policy pay late as this in effect gives them free credit. But more seriously it creates cash flow problems for their suppliers which can has caused perfectly sound businesses to go under.”

Richard Hames of M&DH insurance who created the report said the Government’s PPC had only had a limited success saying only companies who pay on time anyway abide by the code. There was still a problem in the construction sector with late payment.

Ian Carrotte agreed but said it wasn’t just the building and engineering sectors who suffered from the condition as it was still an issue across large areas of industry.

Hames said: “With Brexit, the depreciation of the pound, increasing material prices and EU workers returning to the EU, economic headwinds might have affected the bottom 25 more.”

He also said the largest firms may have improved more due to the greater likelihood of them working on public sector contracts, which often have a maximum 30-day payment period written in.

ICSM Credit

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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From basic hygiene to fighting coronavirus: the training company on the frontline against infection

Becky Hill of Solutions 42 moved her training company to the Stables Business Park six years ago as she was attracted to the rural location and its nearness to the transport network.

“We’re education and training specialists,” she explained, “focusing on the healthcare environment which is a safety critical environment and as such there is a lot of compliance.”

Solutions 42 provides training for those who work in areas where hygiene is vital whether that’s a care home, dental surgery or hospital – and indeed where people gather. A subject that Becky aired at length in 2019 in an article in the Journal of the Institute of Healthcare Engineering and Estate Management (HEJ) with the aim of spreading Solution 42’s enlightened views on the importance of compliance.

She said: “A lot of compliance training is about ticking boxes which I challenge as we do something very different. Healthcare is where we focus such as hospitals as well as community environments. I believe in a holistic approach, and so from the leader to the cleaner, everybody should understand what they are doing.”

Becky said that people are cleaners and healthcare workers haven’t always had an academic training and yet were on the frontline in the maintaining hygiene and yet their work is critical to how an organisation works. Solutions 42 has won a grant to develop training for cleaning staff working in healthcare which will help to develop vocational skills in an essential area of cleanliness.

“The digital training programme is called Spotless, and it challenges the traditional tick box exercise used in e-learning at the moment,” she said.

With a background as a microbiologist and sales management Becky noticed there was a gap between how people were trained in industry and what they took in due to the language and methods used. She said: “Part of my job was to talk to a wide variety of people from engineers, farmers, technicians, academics and end users from various markets making sure they all understood what was happening from each other’s point of view. Making the invisible visible and finding the solution to the problem.

“In a word I became the ‘bridge’ between the two ends; my skill was finding the ‘gap in knowledge’ and then using the right language to be understood – but one thing that became apparent each time was the unpredictability of behaviour in each new person I met. What was the right language for one person wasn’t necessarily right for the next one.”

She said that communication is always at the root of every outcome and if the result you wanted hasn’t happened you can bet the language and vision you had was not 100% understood by the end user.

There’s a short video interview with Becky at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEqGRTEh8qY&t=3s

For more details of her work visit http://www.solutions-42.co.uk/

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Back in the day: an advert for the Norton Commando 750cc 

Government ministers ‘seduced’ by sexy iconic motorbike British brand (and poured in millions of tax payers’ cash) before collapse

An alliance of pensioners, manufacturing workers, The Guardian newspaper, ITV, Labour MP Meg Hillier, Motorcycle News and bike campaign website VisorDown.Com are demanding action over how Norton Motorcycles collapsed this month. One of the charges is Government ministers were seduced by the sexy British brand pouring in cash to the firm while hundreds have lost their pensions and wages in an alleged fraud – and bikers launch a petition for an official enquiry.

The Guardian’s Simon Goodley said taxpayers’ money had been poured into the Castle Donnington company founded in 1898 before it folded with major question marks over the actions of its CEO Stuart Garner. Administrators BDO have prepared a document for potential buyers of Norton Motorcycles which shed light on shocking decisions taken by the CEO Stuart Garner and the management team that included buying luxury cars and personal loans.

Simon Goodley reported: “The document outlines how Norton owns a fleet of luxury vehicles, including six Aston Martins, three Range Rovers and an F Type Jaguar. According to the accountants, the car collection is worth close to £800,000. The report also uses numbers from the company’s last set of published financial results, covering the year to March 2018, that showed that chief executive Garner personally owed the firm £160,000, while a £324,002 loan given by Norton to one of Garner’s other companies had been ‘deemed irrecoverable’ and was ‘written off in the year’.

“Questions had been raised within the motorcycle industry about the viability of Norton for years. Even so, a series of business and finance ministers seized on the chance of associating themselves with a glamorous product and a historic UK manufacturing brand.”

The factory

A joint investigation by The Guardian and ITV reported how the company had benefitted from millions of pounds of taxpayers money in the form of grants from Government ministers anxious to be +-associated with the historic and glamorous British brand. They recalled out the chancellor George Osborne pumped in £4m into Norton in 2015 with a further £1.8m a year later.

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said: “It beggars belief that those in Government did not follow procedures of due care and diligence to ensure tax payers cash was being protected. This is very serious as suppliers to the firm and members of ICSM were raising concerns about Norton for many years about the viability of a firm that could only survive by Government hand-outs.”

In 2011 Vince Cable MP as business secretary waved through a loan of £625,000 for Norton vian Santander Bank praising the motorcycle company as an inspiration for manufacturers.

The chairman of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, the Labour MP Meg Hillier (pictured) has written to the department for business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS), as well as the Cabinet Office, to ask for an inquiry into the events leading up to the collapse. She has accused the Government of ‘blindly pouring millions’ into the firm and of failing to make checks on how the cash was to be spent.

The other alarming aspect of the collapsed motorcycle maker is the situation with pensions. ITV revealed 228 people had their entire pension savings misled into converting them in Norton shares. The TV company highlighted Paul Finch, from Torquay, who has lost his pension pot of £100,000. They reported hewas misled into investing the pension pot he had accumulated from 27 years at Princess Yachts in 2012. As soon as his five year lock-in period with the “Dominator 2012 Pension Scheme” ended in December 2017, Mr Finch wrote to Stuart Garner, who was the trustee, and asked for his savings to be returned but the money wasn’t transferred despite repeated reminders.

Guardian reported: “Garner has previously denied any wrongdoing, saying he was unaware that he was dealing with fraudsters and that he counts himself as one of the victims of the pension scam. He declined requests for comment on the luxury cars and the loans from Norton.”

Bikers are notorious for taking direct action. Ollie Barstow writing for the website VisorDown.Com said there is now a petition which needs 10,000 names to trigger a public enquiry into the collapse of Norton. With a link to the Change.Org website a petition has been set up implying Stuart Garner may be guilty of fraud.

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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Picture from Print Week: Teresa-Anne Dunleavy

ICSM Credit: the 2018 accounts were a warning Taylor Bloxham were in trouble

The full scale of the collapse of the Leicestershire based Taylor Bloxham Group’s debts have been exposed by Jo Francis in Print Week.

The trade magazine’s senior industry reporter has charted the eye-watering figures at the centre of the insolvency that saw 171 workers lose their jobs and a string of creditors left high and dry.

ICSM Credit’s Ian Carrotte said the company had left a shocking mess for FRP Advisory to sort out. He said: “We had heard concerns from suppliers to Taylor Bloxham that things were not good and urged all members of ICSM to stop giving credit to the company last year. The 2018 accounts was an early warning and it was after that along with the appointment of the new CEO in Teresa-Anne Dunleavy last summer that things seemed to get worse.

“Sadly the scale of suspected problems with an ailing company are only discovered once the administrators go through the accounts. It’s always the small businesses and sole traders that take the biggest hit proportionally which is why so many join ICSM to get credit intelligence on their clients.”

Print Week had previously reported that Dunleavy was selected as his successor partly due to her specialism in working with companies undergoing significant structural and cultural change.

Jo Francis reported: “Taylor Bloxham Group was insolvent on a cashflow and balance sheet basis and had just £20,000 in the bank at the time of its administration, with creditors of the business owed more than £7m. The report into the firm’s collapse from administrators Ben Woolrych and John Lowe at FRP Advisory states that, despite an improvement in its financial performance during 2019, the group’s EBITDA of £885k was ‘insufficient to meet [its] debt obligations’.

“When Taylor Bloxham’s 2018 accounts were filed in July 2019 showing an £893k loss, suppliers to the firm started reducing their lines of credit. A winding-up petition filed in December was satisfied, but by that time another major creditor had supported the petition, resulting in a further squeeze on cash as suppliers demanded proforma payments.”

She reported that the firm owed a finance company more than £3m, trade creditors £4.4m, the 171 staff £1.87m, the taxman another half million and one local recruitment agency £290,000.

For the full report and article visit https://www.printweek.com/news/article/taylor-bloxham-creditors-count-cost-of-group-s-collapse

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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AGENDA WEST Business News: alarming increase in insolvencies during 2019 – Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit in Bridgwater looks at the reasons behind the rise in business failures (and it’s not what you might think)

The final quarter of last year revealed administrations were up by 24% and creditors voluntary liquidations were the highest in a decade. Statistics released by the Government’s Insolvency Service also showed that last year there were 17,196 company insolvencies which is the highest since the tail-end of the Credit Crunch in 2009.

“I also feel some businesses are too slow to change in keeping up with trends”

Ian Carrotte of ICSM credit said this was in line with the credit intelligence group’s findings. He said: “Company Voluntary Liquidations now make up 70% of all company insolvencies with compulsory liquidations at 17%. We’ve noticed how insolvencies have risen sharply towards the end of 2019 and I keep on saying this isn’t a spike – it’s a trend.

“What the reasons are is harder to pinpoint. Brexit uncertainty is part of it while a general slow-down internationally hasn’t helped. There’s been the trade war between the USA and China and now the Corona virus is having an effect. But there’s a change in lifestyle. Retailers have been hit by online shopping as has the hospitality sector with home entertainment. That has a knock-on effect for construction and haulage. Business rates have been cited but I also feel some businesses are too slow to change in keeping up with trends.

“Then there are trends such as electric cars and bikes, ethical shopping and even the rise in popularity of vegan diets. If you don’t keep up with shifts in society and business you are likely to find your once solid customer base disappear.”

The latest casualties have been Axminster Carpets, Beales Department stores and Prime Seafoods who employ 70 workers.

The publication website Company Rescue reported: “Prime Seafoods last published accounts detailed up to the end of May 2018. They had a turnover of £28 million but  suffered with pre-tax losses of £236,000 after a trading shortfall of more than £317,000 the year before.”

However there was some good news as the American owned Forever 21 fashion store chain has been bought by Authentic Brands, Simon Property and Brookfield Property after it filed for bankruptcy last September. It has three stores in the UK. And speaking of retail French Connection says it is no longer looking for a buyer but is trying to turnaround the ailing chain store. Finally The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the amount of goods sold in January in Great Britain rose by 0.9%, after falls in the previous two months. 

Ian Carrotte commented: “It’s a small rise but after weeks of poor sales that could be a chink of light for business.”

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

Picture: Retail Gazette

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Manufacturer Axminster Carpets fails to find buyer

AGENDA WEST Business News: ICSM Credit’s Ian Carrotte is saddened by the loss of Axminster Carpets – an ‘icon of British brands’ 

Originally founded in 1755 Axminster Carpet is set to finally close its doors after administrators have failed to find a buyer for the manufacturer of luxury carpets.

Administrators Duff & Phelps were called in last week to find a buyer for the firm after nobody came forward to take on the ailing company. However ICSM Credit understands the underlaying business has been sold to Ulster Carpets and its shop has been bought by Wilton Flooring. The 90 odd staff were largely made redundant with a skeleton crew retained by the administrators to fulfil existing orders.

The firm almost collapsed seven years ago when it was bought out of administration by Stephen Boyd. At the time it employed 400 staff. Three years later rival carpet maker H Dawson of Bradford took on the enterprise but by September last year it was in trouble again with ICSM Credit members flagging up issues with the business.

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said the reasons the firm gave include the Brexit affect, rising costs and a lack of orders. He said: “It’s a sad day when one of the UK’s most iconic brands disappears. Axminster Carpets are synonimus with high quality manufacturing offering skilled jobs in East Devon.”

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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Unsecured creditors left with £45m unpaid invoices

ICSM Credit’s Ian Carrotte shocked by the mess left by defunct Bardsley

ICSM’s Ian Carrotte said it was scandalous that the Manchester building firm Bardsley Construction could go bust owing £45m to creditors.

He said: “A direct result of the insolvency has left many companies struggling. It makes me angry as the glass company Anders have now been forced into administration as a direct result. Bardsley owed Quartzetec more than a million pounds, Sunnybank Plastering £390,000 and the building engineering firm Ameon just shy of a million.”

Something had gone drastically wrong he said and the directors must have known they were facing a cash flow crisis at Christmas when they pulled the plug.

Hamish Champ writing for building said: “Bardsley had worked across a number of sectors, including hotels, leisure facilities, schools, office space and residential development. The administrators said Bardsley ran into contractual issues in late 2018 on three major projects which hit turnover to the tune of £3.2m and subsequently led to trading losses of £2.6m for the year.

“And despite new work being won in October and November last year these jobs weren’t due to start until early 2020 and the firm was hit with further cash-flow problems. Duff & Phelps said it had received a number of initial expressions of interest in the firm, which had been working on 11 projects when it went bust, but these had failed to result in firm bids.

“Duff & Phelps said it expected to raise sufficient funds to pay all preferred creditors, who are owed £220,000, and a small part of what is owed to unsecured creditors.”

Writing for North West Place Jessica Middleton-Pugh reported: “The contractor was on site with 11 design-and-build projects when it went into administration, with £11m owed, according to the report.

“Projects included Mount Yard for Far East Consortium at Meadowside in Manchester city centre; elderly care scheme Albion Mill in Blackburn for Penmaric and healthcare developer VVHC; an apartment block for Mulbury Homes on Manchester’s Blossom Street; and a construction skills centre for Tameside College.

“Not all of the contracts have been terminated, and in some cases Duff & Phelps is hiring sub-contractors to complete work.

“While £1.4m has been paid by developers to Bardsley since December, the administrators are in ongoing negotiations with certain clients, including disputes over payments in some cases.”

Ian Carrotte said this was a classic case of the mess left behind by a company that had gone into administration.

“The fact there are disputes over payment and workmanship,” he said, “suggests management was a problem. And building work due to start in the New Year is always likely to be delayed by bad weather – but the winter doesn’t seem to have been taken into consideration.

“Alarm bells rang last autumn when members raised problems over late payment. We have a lot of people in the construction industry as ICSM Credit members and Bardsley was a name that came up a lot. I urge all those in construction and allied trade to look at joining ICSM in our crusade to end late payment and prevent firms from taking a hit when clients go to the wall. For less than the cost of a tank of fuel you can get inside financial information on your clients.”

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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AGENDA WEST Business News: another day another retailer in trouble with Laura Ashley on the brink of collapse as the owners meet with their lenders after the stores lost millions last year

High Street stalwart Laura Ashley is on the brink of collapse as crisis talks take place with its malasian owners due to a slim in sales and a falling market share.

Jasper Jolly writing in The Guardian reported: “The company, which is listed in the UK, said it would have to “consider all appropriate options” if it could not get hold of more cash, raising fears for the jobs of more than 2,700 workers.

“MUI Asia, which is controlled by the multimillionaire shareholder Khoo Kay Peng, and Wells Fargo are trying to reach an agreement over Laura Ashley’s funding requirements in the short to medium term.

The firm was begun on a kitchen table in the London flat of Laura Ashley back in 1953. Now there are 155 stores in the UK employing 2,700 staff and supplied by a wide range of companies all of whom are hoping the business remains afloat. The owners are locked in talks with their lenders after it lost £14.3m last year to June 30.

It’s not the first time the fashion retailer has struggled. In 1985 the founder and driving force Laura Ashley died following a fall leaving her husband Bernard to continue the business. He turned it into a plc but without her it soon ran into trouble as competition increased and production issues blighted a major expansion. The problems go worse and so a new CEO was installed in the American Dr Maxmin who began to turn things around. However he left over differences with Bernard and once again the firm began to founder. In 1998 MUI Asia became the main shareholder hoping expansion in Asia would bring a new era. Things picked up until the Credit Crunch of 2007-2008. The Australian branch also struggled and eventually crashed with the UK company closing 40 stores in 2018.

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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Beales, the Burger Chain and Hawkin’s Bazaar go – but is it a blip?

Call it the 2020 massacre or the season of company closures but since Christmas a huge number of firms have gone. If the names of Debenhams and Jamie’s Italian are famous for being famous and being famous for failing then the vast number of retailers and restaurants that also go to the wall are ones you may never have heard of.

That said the department store chain Beales called in the administrators in January and although Hawkins Bazaar and Hearing and Mobility may not be household names they did employ hundreds of staff at the string of stores.

It’s been a bad decade or more for pubs with this year The Champion Pub Company, Chef & Brewer Limited and Whitegate Taverns also calling last orders. Cafes like the Wild Food Cafe and Millers Tea Room & Farm Shop Limit have shut up shop while Grastar Restaurants and the Montpeliano Restaurant have closed down. If you read ICSM Credit’s ever lengthening list of Runners and Riders then you will know that retail or hospitality feature along with a surprising number of construction firms and hauliers.

Is it that time of year or a blip? Ian Carrote of ICSM said: “It’s more than a blip. It’s a spike not seen since the Credit Crunch. Whether it lasts we’ll have to wait and see but one underlying factor is a change in lifestyles. You can get superb meals delivered to your door which cuts the cost of eating out, while supermarket wine and beer is much cheaper than going to the pub.

“People have more of a choice at home with Netflix, Amazon, Sky and the rest so they can sit at home in comfort and be entertained while wining and dining at a fraction of the cost. Shopping on-line is the big change with a click of a mouse you have a wider retailing range without all the leg work. And people don’t have the time if they work long hours. So it’s a bit of everything and only time will tell if the numbers of company failures continues at this high rate.”

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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Chinese, German and American firms highlighted in ‘league of shame’ debtors

Survey shows which countries are worst at settling bills

Business Insight have released figures following a survey of 11,000 invoices from UK firms sent to overseas clients that show almost half were paid late.

Top of the list of the nations traded with was the United States of America – which doesn’t bode well for a USA-UK trade deal post Brexit. On average invoices were paid an eye-watering 51 days late according to the research in Market Finance published by Business Insight this month. And perhaps surprisingly Germany was the next offender by on average paying UK firms more than a month past their usual settlement terms.

These figures will send alarm bells ringing in accounts departments across the country as they can cause huge cash flow problems. Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said the survey had returned depressing news as (only in exceptional circumstances) should invoices be paid late.

Next in the league of shame is Belgium whose firms on average pay their UK invoices 18 days late although it’s a major improvement since 2018 when they were the worst late payers of all with invoices paid more than two months past their due date. Following Belgium are most other European countries who settle their bills around two weeks late include Ireland. While Switzerland and Italy were slightly better than the rest of Europe.

There are some pretty disturbing trends with the USA highlighted as a problem nation but China is the worst in one context with 84% of all invoices paid late. That’s a black mark as the average invoice to the Asian super economy is £37,000. In Europe the Germans are the worst offenders with 71% of all invoices paid past the normal terms of settlement with an increase in this bad practice since 2018. Ireland enjoyed the largest level of invoices with an average of £60,000 with half the invoices paid nearly two weeks late.

Ian Carrotte said: “This is incredible and totally unacceptable. Our members have flagged up issues with German firms before and I feel it is more to do with bad habits and suppliers accepting this is the way they work. However a law passed in Germany in 2014 stated if you trade within Germany then you must pay within 30 days of the invoice – not 30 days after the date as is happening to British companies they trade with.”

Mexico and South Africa have a lower percentage of late settlements, around a fifth but those invoices are paid on average more than a month late. India and Singapore are similar in terms of percentage of late paid invoices and they take around two weeks to settle their accounts past the due date.

Bilal Mahmood, of MarketFinance, commented: “The US-China trade war and Brexit uncertainty in 2019 haven’t helped to create a harmonious global trading environment for UK businesses. Indeed, it’s quite possible we’ve lost ground as negotiators on the world stage. An impression which has seeded its way to industry.”

Ian Carrotte said: “Late payment is a cancer and has sent many a firm to the wall. ICSM Credit members keep us informed of the worst offenders and can keep everyone in the loop – and late payment is often a portent of a company collapsing so it is vital to know who is not playing by the rules.”

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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A total of £600,000 in unpaid bills ‘unlikely’ to the paid

Haulier removed trucks and trailers before administrators arrived

Serious allegations about the directors of a defunct transport firm have emerged following the collapse of Ian Aldridge Transport in Cornwall last year.

Writing in Motor Transport Chris Tindall reported that BDO joint administrators Simon Girling and Christopher Marsden said the majority of the assets of the firm were removed prior to administration. The demise of the firm was put down to a lack of business and cash flow. He reported: “the administrators said the majority of Ian Aldridge Transport’s major assets, which included vehicles, trailers, plant and machinery, ‘were removed by one of the directors’ prior to their appointment.”

Girling said: “I have attempted to discuss their plans for return of these assets with the director but he has not sought to engage in any meaningful way on this subject.”

Tindall reported he Cornish haulier ceased trading on July 8, 2019, before administrators at BDO LLP were appointed on July 24, 2019. He said that when the firm was initially contacted after it ceased trading the business “had been transferred to another company.”

The administrators said that as a result, it had assigned this “antecedent transaction” to specialist insolvency litigation financing firm Manolete, which could fund legal action.

The report added: “Manolete has paid a £10,000 lump sum in initial consideration of this assignment.”

However, the report also said that money due to former employees for arrears of wages, holiday pay and pension arrears, anticipated to be in the region of £40,000 is unlikely to be paid. It was also unlikely that unsecured creditors, who have so far lodged claims of almost £600,000, will be paid.

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said: “This is a very serious matter although sadly the issue of removing assets is unheard of.”

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

Photo: Cornwall Live

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Struck off debt collector rips off print company

A print firm based in Dartford has been stung by a dodgy debt collector to the tune of around £700. John Parsons of Footprint Litho was keen to chase down an unpaid debt of £1,700 when he was approached by phone by Rojen Debt Collecting Services of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

The firm insisted on a rolling contract agreed by email to chase the owners of Footprint Litho’s client for an upfront fee of £300 and 18% of the recovered debt suggesting he would receive around £900. What John Parsons didn’t know was Rojen had no plans to pass on any cash from the debt as it was a con. They kept the money from his client and even insisted on him paying more money as “a release fee” which he paid but then heard nothing. When he contacted ICSM Credit for help he heard the unhappy news that Rojen were wound up by the Insolvency service on February 3 for telling lies.

John said he initially believed Rojen and expected to get some of his lost cash repaid minus their cut. The problem was he was being conned. He said: “I didn’t realise I was on a rolling contract as they didn’t say that on the phone they just asked for a one-off payment of £300. I paid it and didn’t hear anything about it for nine months.

“Then about three weeks ago I had a phone call from Rojen who said they’d managed to recoup £1,125 of the original £1,700 and they were still chasing the rest. They said if I paid the interest of the amount of 18% they would release the money.

“I said well if you pay me the money and send me an invoice I’ll pay that but Rojen said ‘it doesn’t work like that.’ I said OK so I paid the money which was £200 plus the VAT. Since then I’ve been chasing them for the money.”

When John Parsons finally got through to Rojen they claimed he would need to pay another contract fee of £370 as his firm was on stop with them.

According to an emailed rolling contract and invoice Rojen claimed John had agreed to their terms and conditions by replying by email. ICSM Credit’s debt collecting manager Paul Carrotte said: “In this case the rolling contract is unlikely to stack up in court. The percentage the firm are demanding plus all their fees are far too high and completely out of proportion to the amount they are charging. When you look at what the court said it was clearly a very dodgy company.”

In a statement from the court the Insolvency Service said: “The court wound-up the company on the ground that it traded with a lack of commercial probity because it made false and misleading statements to its clients, failed to account for monies collected on behalf of clients, charged fees to clients in circumstances where no such fees were due and charged excessive fees to clients. The court also accepted that the company, and the individuals in control of it, failed to cooperate fully with the investigation and failed to keep adequate accounting records.”

David Hope, Chief Investigator for the Insolvency Service, said: “Redwood Business Management operated in a cynical manner throughout its trading history. It charged clients substantial fees for services that were not required or not provided and at the same time, collected debts that it did not pay on to its clients. Thankfully, the court has now put a stop to the company’s activities, preventing further harm.”

The question is have the court put a stop to the company’s activities? Their website is still up and despite a promise made to ICSM Credit to repay John Parsons his cash Rojen have so far not paid up. Ian Carrotte said firms like Rojen are like Lazarus. He said: “They go to sleep when things get hot and wake up and start all over again. It’s their standard mode of operation as it makes them money and they can’t break the habit.”

And making money was what Rojen (or rather Redwood Business Management Limited as that was the real name of the firm) was all about as one million pounds passed through their accounts in the space of a year according to the Insolvency Service. The Official Receiver has been appointed as liquidator. Whether John Parsons eventually gets his money back we shall wait and see.

For details about ICSM Credit’s debt collecting department call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Paul at paul.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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ICSM Credit: ‘Hold on tight as 2020 looks like a bumpy year’

The period after Christmas is often seen as a time for struggling retailers to call it a day having softened the blow of insolvency with an injection of cash during the festive season.

However, it’s not only the high street that’s in crisis as it seems no sector is safe if the present crop of failures is to go by. The US owned UK manufacturing company API has gone into administration closing its three sites with the loss of hundreds of jobs as the printing industry continues to decline. And that decline has seen some of its eye-catching decline in local newspaper. In Scotland The Buteman (that’s the isle of Bute in the inner Hebrides) closed in January, while over the border the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald as shut this month with more jobs gone. Last year 43 local newspapers closed while 245 titles have gone in the last 15 years.

ICSM credit’s Ian Carrotte said: “Hold on tight as 2020 looks like a bumpy year so the best advice is to keep a tight credit control. Don’t trade with firms who delay payment by months and join us at ICSM Credit and make sure you are kept in the loop over which companies to avoid.”

In January only a few days ago the Norton Motorcycle firm entered administration after the famous company struggled to settle a tax bill throwing the jobs of 100 workers into doubt at Castle Donington. It is potentially the end of the road for the 122 year old company.

Construction has taken a massive hit in recent years with the scandal of the collapse of Carillion which set off a chain of events leaving hundreds of firms high and dry. This month the West Sussex dry-lining firm Astins sent home its 200 workers as it called it a day.

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said nobody was safe at the moment. He said: “We list every month firms that are in trouble for reference for our members and the range of companies hit has widened. The pub and hospitality industry have seen lots of pubs close, and there’s been attrition in the printing industry. But we’ve seen property companies, construction and haulage all seeing a rise in casualties as the economy contracts. Members keep us abreast of which companies are experiencing cash flow problems so we can keep everyone informed. Just to take construction as an example – last year a major firm went bust every fortnight. It’s the worst I’ve known since the Credit Crunch.”

The Financial Times predicted that 2020 would see a continuation of trends already set in motion. Namely the rise of electric cars, online shopping and of oil prices but also concerns over some of the banks and their ability to resist getting overstretched. However, nobody thought that the coronavirus would affect the world economy with a collapse in the value of Chinese stocks which will have a knock-on effect. And there’s the still unknown effect the Brexit negotiations will have.

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk and for more business news see Agenda West at
http://www.harrymottram.co.uk/agenda-west/

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Don’t let your business get stuck in Bridgwater’s traffic

Work on Hinkley Point C continues apace despite the boom it has bought to trade in Somerset along with the increased traffic jams. Congestion is one of the reasons why many firms are looking to move away from Bridgwater to escape a level of traffic seen only in London and other major cities.

The reason are the hundreds of daily lorry movements in the town as construction continues on the nuclear power station on the coast a few miles away.

Ian Carrotte of Wembdon has seen a massive increase in traffic which is a hindrance to residents and businesses just trying to get around. “We get some Hinkley traffic taking a short cut through the village which is bad but the main problem is when there are road works on the A38 Bristol Road. Then there are long tailbacks and nothing moves.”

One of the problems is the town doesn’t have a bypass and despite calls for a link road to connect the Dumball roundabout on the M5 with the road out to Hinkley by locals but French company building the power station decided it wasn’t needed.

“it’s one of the reasons that many firms are looking to move out of the town,” said Tom Dalley of the Stables Business Park north of the town. “If there’s a hold up on the M5 (something that happens frequently) then all the roads around Bridgwater come to a standstill. All the firms on this estate say it’s the fact they are near Bristol, Weston-super-Mare and Bridgwater that they find attractive. Being on the A38 and close to the M5 means they can access the transport network without having to queue for hours to get through Bridgwater.”

Firms on the estate at Rooksbridge back up this up citing the closeness to the airport and trains at Worle are another factor.

Meanwhile in Bridgwater there seems little likelihood of the chaos ending soon on the £22bn project. Hinkley C has seen a catalogue of delays including concerns over the reactor itself which means a completion date is still at least three years away.

The Stables Business Park in Rooksbridge is just off the A38 near the M5. For details of vacancies and other news visit
https://www.stablesbusinesspark.com/

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Beales finally falls into administration with fears for 1,300 jobs

The regional department store chain Beales founded in 1881 has slipped into administration putting the jobs of its 1,300 staff at risk.

If KPMG cannot find a buyer for all or part of the group of 22 stores then it could see another big name on the High Street disappear. Of course the firm has been in trouble before as in 2016 it secured a CVA to reduce rents on 11 of its stores. In October 2018 there was a management buy-out led by the CEO Tony Brown but a year later things looked bleak with KPMG appointed to make a strategic review.

Writing for the Retail Gazette website Elias Jahshan reported: “In the financial year to March 2019, the department store registered a loss of £3.1 million, up from £1.3 million for the year earlier. The poor trading was attributed to rising costs, including business rates, and a dip in sales. Last week, property consultancy firm Colliers International estimated that Beales paid £1.06 million more in business rates than it should have in the years since the revaluation of the commercial property tax scheme. Beales was a public company for two decades until its shares were delisted in 2015. It has since been owned by several different private investors.”

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said: “Department stores are supplied by a massive range of firms which is a big concern. From clothing to perfumes and from soft furnishings to shoes the stores also use printers, sign-makers, IT specialists, consultants of all types as well as couriers and hauliers. Potentially the fall out could be massive with the banks and the taxman at the head of the queue.

“ICSM Credit’s advice to members has been for some time to not allow any credit to the firm. Since the firm is in administration there’s little chance of outstanding invoices getting paid.”

ICSM Credit understands that some of the sites may be sold to rival stores but it is likely that most will close – whether this will be as a pre-pack remains to be seen.

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For more reviews, news and views on theatre and much else visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

Follow Harry on Facebook, Twitter as @harrythespiv, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn

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Winning multi million pound contracts didn’t save company

Construction firm’s Christmas collapse leaves contractors in the lurch

A workforce of 200 at Manchester based Bardsley Construction Limited were laid off on December 19, last year when the company called in administrators leaving building projects unfinished.

And the collapse of the company has also left suppliers and contractors with unpaid invoices totally many thousands of pounds.

In a letter posted on the firm’s website the administrators gave the bad news. It reads: “Steven Muncaster and Stephen Clancy, both managing directors of Duff & Phelps Ltd., were appointed Joint Administrators of Bardsley Construction Limited (“the Company”) on 19 December 2019.

“The Company has ceased to trade whilst the Joint Administrators undertake an urgent review of the financial position of the Company whilst marketing the business and assets of the Company for sale.

“Please be advised that Steven Muncaster and Stephen Clancy were also appointed as Joint Administrators of the non-trading group companies, Bardsley Group Limited and Bardsley Construction Holdings Limited, on the same date i.e. 19th December 2019.”

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said the construction industry was taking a hit during the country’s current economic slowdown as projects are curtailed and workers laid off. He said: “In our regular newsletter I’ve seen a huge rise in the numbers of building firms go to the wall. It’s very concerning but our members stay in the loop to avoid suffering losses from another Carillion.”

Steven Robson for the Manchester Evening News said Bardsley Construction was founded by joiner Roland Bardsley in 1964 had experienced cash flow problems caused by late payments despite winning an £11m contract for Tameside College in Ashton-under-Lyme last year. There was the £16m contract for the StayCity Aparthotel, New Cross, due to be completed in January 2020 and the Burnage Lane homes for Southway Housing Trust worth £8m along with several other projects on their books.

However Dave Rogers of Building News said: “”Stockport contractor Goodwin Construction has brought in a dozen former employees of collapsed contractor Bardsley to take staff numbers at the firm up to the 50 mark.”

Meanwhile contractors and creditors await the report from the administrators to discover whether they will be able to receive any of their cash or even if the company can be relaunched or a buyer can be found.

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

Pic: Building News

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Mondi shuts up shop in two UK site as crisis deepens

The trade press are reporting on the collapse of Mondi’s operation in the UK with the news the packaging company is to close its two remaining plants in this country.

Richard Stuart-Turner writing for Print Week said 208 jobs were at risk their plants at Deeside Industrial Park in Flintshire and its Nelson, Lancashire site by the second half of 2020. He said: “While the factory closures would put an end to Mondi’s manufacturing in the UK, the business said it remains open to consider future opportunities “as and when they arise” in support of its strategic objectives.”

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said: “It’s been an open secret in the business that this was on the cards as Mondi have cut their losses and looked to concentrate operations on the Continent. ICSM associates have noted some of the issues regarding the company for some weeks.”

The question is whether the closures are to do with the management of the firm is the issue, Brexit and the move to consolidate business in Europe or the overall decline in some aspects of the packaging industry due to a stagnant economy.

Packaging News’ Waqa Qureshi writing on the website reported: “Last October Mondi’s share price fell to their lowest level in almost three years as the paper and packaging giant reported softer paper demand and lower prices had hit its third-quarter revenue. Both affected plants create bags, pouches and laminates for the consumer industry.

“A ‘change in demand for the niche products’ was cited as the reason for the decline in business at the sites, and a 45-day consultation process is expected to begin imminently.

“Mondi closed its Scunthorpe flexible packaging site in May 201, although it has made significant investment in other European operations, including a €30m investment on a corrugated plant in Germany and a substantial investment at a Polish plant.”  

The firm’s chief executive Peter Oswald is to quit in March while the company still has 26,000 employees at around 100 production sites across more than 30 countries in Europe, Russia, North America and South Africa.

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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Trade creditors (including the cleaners) of Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurants to get nothing (but he opens new outlets in the Far East and is still worth £100m)

Despite opening new restaurants this winter in south east Asia TV chef Jamie Oliver won’t have to pay most of the £83m in debts from his failed Jamie’s Italian outlets.

Administrators KPMG said there would a shortfall meaning the 288 trade creditors such as food ingredient suppliers and even the cleaners will get next to nothing or indeed nothing. They include window cleaners who are owed £90, while the cleaners are left with unpaid invoices of £4,471 and the distribution firm Brakes is owed an eye-watering £850,000.

While staff should get paid eventually the landlords such as councils and shopping centres are unlikely to be paid despite Jamie Oliver being thought to be worth around £100m due to his TV and publishing work. His chain of Italian restaurants crashed last May but he still operates 70 restaurants abroad and plans to open more this year under the brand name of Jamie Oliver’s Kitchen.

Despite his clean-cut honest John persona Jamie Oliver has a history of financial irresponsibility. His empire closed 12 of its sites in 2018 under a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) and he failed to pay the suppliers to his steak house Piccadilly Barbecoa when that crashed the same year. He formed a firm that bought out the steak house without having to pay the creditors of the old business. Last year all but three of the remaining Italian restaurants closed throwing 1,000 people out of work leaving the ones at Gatwick airport open. Ironically because Gatwick were owed over £1m in rent when the chain collapsed.

There is some poetic justice in the former Jamie’s Italian restaurant in Guildford, Surrey, as it is set to become a McDonalds.

Restaurants have been closing at the rate of more than 15 a week as the public tighten their belts and habits change. It’s led to a 25% rise in restaurant insolvencies year on year as the sector takes a hit in straightened economic times.

Julie Palmer, partner at Begbies Traynor Begbies, said that it’s not just belt tightening that is hitting the casual dining sector.

She said: “A tightening of consumer’s belts has not helped as disposable income has decreased, while the rise of courier services such as Uber Eats and Just Eat is giving cheaper, more convenient options delivered straight to the door.”

Sophie Witts writing in Big Hospitality said in London landlords are increasingly nervous about offering long leases to restaurants due to the number of closures. She also highlighted the rise of the pop-up restaurant and an increasing number of so-called street food vendors as tastes and habits changed. Prezzo closed 94 outlets last March, Chimichanga axed 33 restaurants and Carluccio’s shut 34 of its restaurants following a CVA while Eat closed ten of its outlets last year although it did open a new one at Madrid airport.

Around 1,400 restaurants became insolvent in the UK in the last financial year and it’s not just the big chains who are suffering with the independents hit as well. It suggests a major shake-up in the industry is underway caused by economic uncertainty, changing habits and saturation.

A large number of restaurants and those in the hospitality industry are members of ICSM Credit which helps to protect them from collapsing firms said Ian Carrotte. He added: “We get news of problems from suppliers in the hospitality business who pass on credit intelligence about firms in trouble. It’s often the largest chains in hospitality that cause problems as people believe that because they are a famous name they are safe. That is clearly not the case in any industry which is why credit intelligence is vital.”

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers or simply subscribe to the FREE newsletter. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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The inglorious 12th of January when retail liquidations begin

Flog as much as possible from Black Friday to Christmas and the Boxing day and New Year’s sales and then shut up shop while there’s cash in the till.

It may seem a crude statement but it is a truism that is not unknown in the retail and hospitality industries when consumers commit themselves to an annual spend. But by mid-January when the consumers have spent all their cash and are waiting for payday at the end of the month the boom in sales is over. Hence the inglorious twelfth of January when some retailers may be tempted to call it a day and cut their losses. This month the department store Beale’s chief executive Tony Brown said administration could lead to a restructuring of the firm implying that some of the 22 stores would close although without a buyer the department store may not survive.

This time last year Greenwoods menswear called in the administrators, as did Mahabis, Hardy Amies, Odd Bins and Bennetts while this January Debenhams and HMV are closing loss making stores and Mothercare has closed for good. For many firms in the service and manufacturing sectors the first quarter can be a boom period after the two-week shut down over Christmas and the winding down of many offices in the two or three weeks ahead of the festive period. It depends on the nature of each business sector. Clearly seaside and holiday resorts look to their golden quarters of May to September when good weather combined with school holidays gives a boost to trade while garden centres and DIY stores tend to look to the spring and summer for strong fiscal performances as householders get to work in their gardens as well as sprucing up their properties.

Looking at the statistics overall there isn’t one period when firms go bust more than others – even in the so-called golden quarter the rates of insolvencies are not much different from the other months. It is another truism that firms who rely on a good summer may well call it a day in the autumn after the schools reopen in September but there’s only anecdotal evidence to support this idea while others shut up shop before the end of their financial year.

Statistics do bare out one undeniable factor and that is when the economy does well liquidations fall while when it does badly business failures spike. As we enter 2020 there’s concern that company collapses will rise due to the stagnant state of the economy. In fact 2019 has been the worst for five years with the present trend threatening to mirror the credit crunch of 2007-8. Hopefully that won’t happen but for retailers the present decline in the high street is threatening to make every month this year have an inglorious twelfth.

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

Pic: Heart. Ladies Night at Beales in Bournmouth

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Flybe and Beales on the brink of administration

Two of the nation’s under pressure business sectors have been showing signs of economic stress in the last two years as shoppers forsake the high street and the airline market becomes saturated.

Flybe have been reported by Sky News to be in trouble although the firm has denied reports of problems. Last year the troubled low-cost airline was bought by a consortium including Virgin Atlantic and the Stobart Group to save it from collapse for just £2.2m. The consortium has ploughed in tens of millions of pounds to turn it around but it seems Flybe remains in trouble.

Meanwhile on the high street the latest department store chain to hit the buffers is Beales with its 22 stores and 1,000 employees. The firm has implied it may enter administration in order to find a buyer or buyers and to in effect off load debts, loss making stores and costs possibly through a pre-pack. Founded in 1881 it is the latest big store to find the combination of business rates, rents and the public’s fondness for internet shopping to stifle trade.

The concern for suppliers and creditors is the amount of unpaid invoices Beales could dump in administration. Anything from printers, sign-makers, hauliers, clothing and accessory suppliers and shop fitters could end up out of pocket with some even forced out of business.

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said members of the credit intelligence group had raised concerns over Beales in the last few weeks. He said: “It’s the sheer number of suppliers who could be hit that is the worry. Just because Beales have traded since the 18th century doesn’t mean they are infallible. Tight credit control is the key and if a big name customer demands payment of more than 30 days after always paying regularly then you must be suspicious and insist on keeping your terms of credit.”

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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Finance Director loses £280,000 after print firm’s demise

Established in the dying days of Victorian England the printing company Latimer Trend and Company was founded producing leaflets, flyers, periodicals and stationery for customers in the British Empire. Some 130 years later the company as had the excruciating humiliation of going bust in a very 21st century way owing somewhere north of £4.5m.

The workforce of 80 were unceremoniously ‘let go’ with unpaid salaries and bonuses to the tune of more than half a million pounds.

Jo Francis writing for the trade magazine Print Week highlighted the state of play for the unsecured creditors following the collapse followed by administrators Sandra Mundy and Thomas Russell of James Cowper Kreston taking charge and going through the books.

She reported: “The administrators’ report states that secured creditors included Close Brothers Asset Finance and RBS Invoice Finance. RBS will receive payment in full-from the book debts, after existing orders for two major publishing customers were completed during the administration moratorium.”

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said the whole affair was a sorry story that had become all too common. He said: “We have been aware of the ongoing crisis at Latimer Trend and our thoughts go to the staff who have lost their jobs and everyone who tried to save the historic business. Sadly when debts pile up they become a burden and with the changing nature of the printing industry and a general downturn in business it created a perfect storm.”

The list of creditors makes for eye watering reading with the Close Brothers owed £3m, the finance director £380,000, HMRC £230,00 and unsecured creditors more than £3m.

Ian Carrotte dismissed the notion put out by the firm last Ocotber that Brexit was the reason for the slide into administration – somthing that was widely reported at the time. He said a combination of factors had led to the collapse but Brexit couldn’t be used as an excuse.

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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OMG It’s the first week of January and another print firm goes bust: CPG Brand Communications reported as latest industry casualty

If 2019 seemed bad for the print industry then 2020 could be even worse with some forecasters suggesting a recession is just around the corner.

Where you believe them or not there is no denying that the number of print firms going to the wall has increased in recent months with the latest being Tonbridge-based CPG Brand Communications registered at Colour Print Limited.

The firm fell into administration this week according to Print Week’s Hannah Jordan.

She wrote: “Sources close to the firm said staff were informed on 16 December that it was being placed in administration and that no salaries would be paid for the Christmas month. Colour Print was still listed as active at the time of writing with one remaining director, Craig Prince, who was appointed a director in May 2018. 

“Meanwhile, four other directorships have been terminated at the firm over the past four months including Terry Hewett on 27 September, Richard Gerald Husband on 27 November, Paul Anthony Duckworth on 30 November and group sales director Steve Kirkham on 6 December. Hewett, Husband and Kirkham were all appointed on 4 Sept last year while Duckworth was appointed on 19 December 2018.”

For the full story visit https://www.printweek.com/news/article/cpg-administration-confirmed

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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Year closes on rogue businessman who went on trading after ban by Insolvency Service

The year 2019 has closed on a sorry chapter of dishonest trading by the business man Neill Stuart Malcolm John whose firms were wound up by the Insolvency Service.

John, along with his then partner Clair Hunnisett, became known as the Bonnie and Clyde of the print industry as they took online orders in cash from self-publishers but failed to deliver any printed books. They used the names of Printed Books Ltd, Book Printer UK, The Printing Press and UK, Litho Printing Limited and similar sounding firms.

Despite being banned in May in court in Manchester John continued to set up new websites offering discounts to aspiring publishers with near identical websites trading under the names of Book World Ltd and Hardback Printer Limited. The court wound them up in September in the public interest.

Writing on Print Week’s website in October Jo Francis said: “The court heard a familiar tale regarding the mode of operation of Book World, which attracted customers – often self-publishers – by offering cheap prices and then outsourced the printing, mainly to printers based in Eastern Europe. The registered addresses of the two firms were in London, but the Insolvency Service found they were in reality virtual office providers and the companies actually operated from Barry, in South Wales.”

In a statement, Insolvency Service chief investigator Helen Cosgrove said: “Many of the companies’ victims were everyday consumers looking for a good price to get their work published as they didn’t have the support of a big publishing house behind them. However, investigations clearly proved Book World had no interest in serving their clients and provided shoddy levels of output, while Hardback Printer was all set-up to do exactly the same. We are pleased the courts recognised this and have shut down their activities to prevent further people from becoming victims.”

Although the duo fleeced hundreds of people of their cash with a promise of printed books they also ordered print from some UK firms but others from Europe including Turkey, Ukraine and the Baltic nations. Some of their customers received their books – although usually in an unsatisfactory condition – but the print firms rarely if ever got paid with some left with large unpaid invoices to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds.

At this point the story one would hope would come to an end and John would hopefully return to his original vocation that of a high pressure salesman. However a tip-off from one of his victims this week has noted he’s changed his name again to Neill St John and has apparently got married in a lavish ceremony – not to his long term partner Clair Hunnisett – but to events company manager Krystal St John.

ICSM Credit’s Ian Carrotte said: “We have been warning members of this man for more than two years as he has left print companies in this country with unpaid invoices. He has also taken hundreds of thousands of pounds off members of the public. My fear is under a new name he will again begin trading and targetting the unknowing public and trusting businesses.”

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

Picture: Ian Malcolm Stuart John’s new Facebook profile image although he now calls himelf Ian St John – not to be confused with the Scottish footballer

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President George W. Bush signs the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002 PHOTO DOUG MILLS ASSOCIATED PRESS

Calls for a UK Sarbanes-Oxley law to end the scandal of botched audits

Business journalist Harry Mottram says it is time directors and auditors were held accountable for company audits which fail to spot imminent collapses costing creditors and workers billions of pounds and bringing the process into disrepute.

Recent disasters like Thomas Cook and Carillion that crashed leaving thousands high and dry despite having been audited weeks before shows this country needs a law along the lines of Sarbanes-Oxley passed in the USA.

Under George W Bush’s presidency in 2002 the Sarbanes-Oxley bill to make auditing accountants and directors more accountable was introduced by Senator Paul Sarbanes and Representative Michael Oxley. The bill quickly became abbreviated as SOX and aimed to prevent the disasters of Enron and Worldcom. Those accounting scandals cost investors billions of dollars when the share prices of affected companies collapsed, and shook public confidence in the US securities markets.  

Similarly in this country suppliers, customers and those who worked for Thomas Cook and Carillion and many other defunct outfits lost billions of pounds bringing auditing processes into disrepute and raising questions over how the big four accountancy firms of Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers operate.The criticism is that the directors, financial managers and those charged with auditing the firms walk away from the mess without being held to account. Yes, parliamentary committees can summon them to explain themselves and the administrators can point to the causes of a collapse and name names but essentially they are free to go.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday, December 17, 2019, Dominic O’Connell raised the matter as he said there could be a move in January to introduce a similar scheme to make company directors personally responsible for their accounts.

Michelle Hinchcliff of KPMG discussed the idea with Dominic. She said: “The first review into it was by Sir John Kingman which looked at the role of the regulator and the next review is by Sir Donald Bryden whose report will be released in the second week of January. That is looking at the audit product.”

She agreed that a SOX law could work in this country but it wouldn’t be the same as the one in the USA as their system is ‘rules based’ while ours is ‘principles based.’ Dominic O’Connell said initially the USA firms disliked the new system as it created a huge amount of extra work but it has now been accepted as part of the auditing process and financial governance. Michelle Hinchcliff said the current system of auditing was too black and white and tended to look backwards implying that future trends were not being spotted. This could explain why a firm’s books appear to be fine but potential issues of over-reaching themselves in the future or repaying historic debt are missed.

The Independent Review into the Quality and Effectiveness of the UK Audit Market, led by Sir Donald Brydon was commissioned by the Government in response to a perceived widening of the “audit expectations gap”  the difference between what users expect an audit to deliver, and what auditors’ responsibilities actually entail.

With thousands of jobs lost with company collapses like BHS clearly something needs to be done and done quickly. A British version of SOX is needed to prevent the erosion of trust – something that KPMG’s Michelle Hinchcliff agrees with. She said: “I believe there’s absolute value in a British version of SOX but I don’t think it should be an exact replica of what’s in the US.”

She added that there’s a lot of support for a UK version of SOX from audit committee chairs.

ICSM Credit would like to see Sir Donald Brydon’s report bring in a UK SOX as it could protect suppliers who invoice large firms and as creditors rarely see any payment when a major company goes bust. The proprietor of ICSM Credit Ian Carrotte said that only this summer members of ICSM were desperately trying to get settlement of their accounts with Thomas Cook as the firm slid towards its September crash.

“It was an open secret the travel firm was in trouble,” he said, “as invoices were not being paid to several companies. We encouraged suppliers to chase hard for payment despite the company’s assurances. The audit this year should have brought confidence, but instead it did the opposite. A SOX in the UK can only be a positive move and hopefully will bring some reforms to the auditing process.”

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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Hundreds of small businesses hit by huge bills from company ‘linked to a scam’

Media company goes bust – but the bills keep coming for its customers

When Northern Ireland firm Viewble Media UK Ltd went bust last June its customers had expected that it would be the end of a sorry chapter in which they paid large amounts of money for advertising screens in their businesses. Sadly that was not the case as an Australian firm called Rhino Media Group (RMG) picked up the clients from Viewble’s directors for an undisclosed sum in June and continued to bill around 1,500 companies across the UK due to legal small print in the original contracts.

Peter Coulter of the BBC said: “Business owners signed a three-year deal, in which they agreed to pay £299 a month on the understanding they would be compensated by the sale of adverts for other businesses. The paperwork was completed for the business owners; in most cases they just had to give a digital signature on an iPad.

“Affected businesses have told BBC News NI they did not realise that as part of the paperwork they had signed, they had agreed to finance deals worth almost £11,000 per screen, which they would have to pay regardless of whether they were making any money from ad sales. Finance was arranged on behalf of the business owners, many of whom were unaware of the small print in the contract pointing out they would be liable if anything went wrong. Most businesses did initially receive some payments from the advertising, but these stopped when Viewble Media collapsed in June.”

BBC Northern Ireland reported that RMG took over Viewble’s office in Bangor, County Down, retained some of its staff, and said it would start to pay businesses back. However they said RMG has contacted its customers saying it will no longer be able to make the repayments unless it manages to sell any more ads.

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said this was a classic case of firms signing up to something without first checking out the background to the directors and the company itself – something ICSM members can do automatically.

He said: “We heard about this company through members who had come across stories about the linked firm in Australia. Associates ran credit checks on the firm and its directors and that’s when alarm bells began to ring. You should never sign up to a contract on an i-Pad like this.”

Peter Coulter of BBC Northern Ireland said: “Customers can no longer contact RMG, which has laid off all its staff and closed its Bangor office. Businesses upset about the finance deals have asked for help with repayments – but the contracts appear to be legally binding. Some businesses have cancelled their direct debits, while others have appointed solicitors to review the terms of their agreements.”

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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Year closes on rogue businessman who went on trading after ban by Insolvency Service

The year 2019 has closed on a sorry chapter of dishonest trading by the business man Neill Stuart Malcolm John whose firms were wound up by the Insolvency Service.

John, along with his then partner Clair Hunnisett, became known as the Bonnie and Clyde of the print industry as they took online orders in cash from self-publishers but failed to deliver any printed books. They used the names of Printed Books Ltd, Book Printer UK, The Printing Press and UK, Litho Printing Limited and similar sounding firms.

Despite being banned in May in court in Manchester John continued to set up new websites offering discounts to aspiring publishers with near identical websites trading under the names of Book World Ltd and Hardback Printer Limited. The court wound them up in September in the public interest.

Writing on Print Week’s website in October Jo Francis said: “The court heard a familiar tale regarding the mode of operation of Book World, which attracted customers – often self-publishers – by offering cheap prices and then outsourced the printing, mainly to printers based in Eastern Europe. The registered addresses of the two firms were in London, but the Insolvency Service found they were in reality virtual office providers and the companies actually operated from Barry, in South Wales.”

In a statement, Insolvency Service chief investigator Helen Cosgrove said: “Many of the companies’ victims were everyday consumers looking for a good price to get their work published as they didn’t have the support of a big publishing house behind them. However, investigations clearly proved Book World had no interest in serving their clients and provided shoddy levels of output, while Hardback Printer was all set-up to do exactly the same. We are pleased the courts recognised this and have shut down their activities to prevent further people from becoming victims.”

Although the duo fleeced hundreds of people of their cash with a promise of printed books they also ordered print from some UK firms but others from Europe including Turkey, Ukraine and the Baltic nations. Some of their customers received their books – although usually in an unsatisfactory condition – but the print firms rarely if ever got paid with some left with large unpaid invoices to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds.

At this point the story one would hope would come to an end and John would hopefully return to his original vocation that of a high pressure salesman. However a tip-off from one of his victims this week has noted he’s changed his name again to Neill St John and has apparently got married in a lavish ceremony – not to his long term partner Clair Hunnisett – but to events company manager Krystal St John.

ICSM Credit’s Ian Carrotte said: “We have been warning members of this man for more than two years as he has left print companies in this country with unpaid invoices. He has also taken hundreds of thousands of pounds off members of the public. My fear is under a new name he will again begin trading and targetting the unknowing public and trusting businesses.”

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

Picture: Ian Malcolm Stuart John’s new Facebook profile image although he now calls himelf Ian St John – not to be confused with the Scottish footballer

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The Stables Business Park joins the Axbridge Chamber of Commerce

Back in the day the axbridge Rural District Council covered a vast area including Rooksbridge, Stone Allerton and Shipham amongst other Somerset villages. The postal area still includes these areas while the proactive Axbridge Chamber of Commerce has members across the area.

The latest to join is The Stables Business Park. Tom Dalley of the park said its links and location are the key for its success. It  lies off the A38 in Rooksbridge about two miles from the M5, 25 minutes from Bristol Airport and only minutes from railways stations at Highbridge and Worle.

Tenants are many and varied and are from all corners of the spectrum, we have a National Plant Franchise Company, NFU & NFU Mutual, Building Contractors, Surveyors, Air Control company,  Business Support Services and many others, up to a baker’s dozen in total. Up until a few years ago we also had a National Hunt and Flat racing yard as an integral part of the entire complex.

To join the Axbridge Chamber of Commerce email the chairman
Louise Cooling at info@ripleyantiques.co.uk or contact Ripley Antiques on Axbridge Square.

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Mike House set for new challenge in 2020 as NFU Mutual man departs

Margaret Thatcher was prime minister and Yazz and the Plastic Population were top of the charts when Mike House joined NFU Mutual back in 1988.

After 32 years as an Agent for the company he’s retiring and moving on in 2020 to work with the NFU Poultry Group in the South West representing and protecting the interests of its sector members. However He won’t be far away as he’ll be working from home and from near Frome – and he’s already been working on the poultry sector alongside his work in NFU Mutual.

Mike initially worked from the Weston-super-Mare offices when he first joined but in 2007 with business increasing the NFU Mutual moved to the Forge on the Stables Business Park. Two years later the offices were too small so to accommodate them Tom Dalley of the park had The Granary especially prepared for Mike and company.

Brought up on a Somerset dairy farm, Mike has a BSC (Hons) degree in Agriculture and with his long experience has an inside knowledge of all aspects of insurance and specialises in farming and business protection. 

Mike said the main changes in his time with the NFU Mutual had been rationisation in the farming industry. In his role as an NFU Secretary he said: “The development of farm assurance has improved food hygiene giving it an edge over its competitors. There’s been changes in the way the farming industry is managed but Somerset is a grass growing county and so it will always feature livestock farming. The Levels in particular are ideal pasture for beef and dairy.”

Tom Dalley of the Stables Business Park said it was sad to see Mike depart but on behalf of everyone at the Rooksbridge site wished him well in the future.

To contact Mike House call his mobile on 07747 763023.

To contact NFU Mutual at Rooksbridge call 01934 806890 or visit https://www.nfumutual.co.uk/agent-offices/rooksbridge/?utm_source=gbl&utm_medium=organic

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‘I didn’t want to be on an industrial trading estate’ – Becky Hill of Solutions 42

Training, performance improvement and strategic advice company Solutions 42 moved to the Stables Business Park in Rooksbridge six years ago.

“There were several reasons I chose The Stables Business Park,” said Becky Hill of the firm, “I was looking for a place that didn’t look like a bland set of offices.

“Secondly I really connected with the landlord Tom Dalley, and the fact that he emits quality in what he does and the environment he provides at the business park.

“The offices are nicely appointed with attractive gardens where people can have a break and sit out in the summer to have their lunch. The gardens are somewhere where people from different businesses can gather and even have a little bit of a community spirit. And Tom’s even had barbeques in the gardens.”

She said another factor was the short distance from the M5 and A38 as well as the airport and train stations.

“I can get up to Bristol in just over 30 minutes,” she said, “and the airport in 20 minutes – and yet we are in a rural setting and not an industrial trading estate.”

There is a short video on Becky Hill and the Stables Business Park at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XB4iqfzPMqQ&t=2s

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Online firms like Amazon blamed for demise of book company

With only days before Christmas the book retailer The Book People has fallen into administration with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) taking on the task of finding a buyer or company rescue.

However the retailer who sells £50m of books, toys, stationery and gifts annually and employs 393 staff will continue trading for the time being said PwC.

Toby Underwood, of PwC said: “I appreciate the obvious concerns that staff in particular will have as we move towards Christmas. Whilst the administrators have funding to meet the payroll for December, the longer-term prospects for the business, staff, customers and suppliers will clearly be dependent upon whether a sale can be secured.”

Founded in 1988 in Godalming, Surrey, The Book People is owned by the private equity firm Endless since 2014, had sales of £71.5m in 2017, but since then profits have fallen from £6.2m the previous year to just £1.1m. Crucially the company had more than £33m of debts at the time which will have eaten into their profitability.

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said concerns had been raised for some time by ICSM members. This morning Sky News’s Mark Kleinman reported the firm was in trouble. He wrote: “Sources said that the accountancy firm had been overseeing an auction of The Book People in recent weeks as Endless tried to secure a buyer. They added that a number of ‘credible’ parties had expressed an interest in a deal.”

The proprietor of ICSM Credit said although book sales are holding up in general competition from supermarkets and online retailers had cut into the traditional publishing market and was ‘a sign of the times.’

The company initially began as a one man band with a van leaving books on a sale or return basis in offices in Surrey but within two years the operation had 140 distributors and by 1998 had an online store and a mail-order catalogue. Offices were opened in Haydock and a warehouse opened in Bangor as the company peeked with 600 staff just three years ago. In September 2014, Endless LLP, a UK-based equity investor, backed a management buy-out of the company.

PwC have confirmed that all orders for Christmas will be honoured, the staff will continue being paid while the firm will continue trading for the time being.

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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The pop-up theatre

Actors left unpaid as theatre company goes bust blaming Brexit and er… low audience numbers at the Blenheim Palace venue this summer

Parent company Lunchbox Theatrical Productions also goes pop

Shakespeare and his fellow actors once dismantled a theatre and rebuilt it timber by timber on a new site in London after a dispute with their landlord. It was the original moonlight flit – and kept the theatre company trading from a new address.

The Bard may not have been so impressed by the collapse of a theatre company last month that used his name to market their productions. Administrators Auker Rhodes have been called in to Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre Limited in York when their two pop-up theatres collapsed in financial ruins due to trading difficulties.

The Oxford Mail reported locals thought the tickets were expensive

The parent company Lunchbox Theatrical Productions has also gone into administration due to Brexit uncertainties they said along with low audience figures with administrators appointed on October 18, 2019.

They ran two pop-up Shakespearean theatres in York and at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, while Lunchbox also ran a number of ice-themed events such as Peter Pan on Ice.

Equity steps in to support actors

The Stage has reported that creditors include the actors and support staff at the pop-up theatres. They said: “Equity is now supporting 76 members and said it has helped to collate amounts that performers claim to be owed, currently totalling £15,000, and submitted them to liquidators. According to the union, there were around 90 performers, stage management and creative team roles across both sites.”

The BBC reported: “In 2018, the York pop-up attracted 78,000 visitors, but only 47,000 in 2019. About 38,000 visited the theatre at Blenheim Palace instead of the 75,000 the company expected.”

ICSM Credit’s Ian Carrotte said: “Hopefully the administrators will be able to reimburse the staff and actors of owed wages plus expenses and interest. For the company to blame the closure on Brexit is laughable. Clearly, they didn’t sell enough tickets.”

LunchBox’s chief executive James Cundall was awarded an MBE in 2018 for services to the entertainment industry.

Workers left out of pocket by firms that fail to pay redundancy money or back wages can claim a statutory amount from the Government. Visit https://www.gov.uk/claim-redundancy

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

For more visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

Follow Harry on twitter as @harrythespiv also on FaceBook, LinkedIn, YouTube and on Instagram

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HARRY MOTTRAM FREELANCE FEATURES: Curse of the phoenix firms who rip off their suppliers by closing down and reopening under a slightly different name – all in ICSM News Issue 1

Issue one of ICSM News is out – written and designed by Harry Mottram. It covers the rise of phoenix firms – those who us legal methods to dump their debts and reopen under a slightly different name. There’s also a listing of the many firms who have gone bust this autumn, notes on liquidations and how debt collectors try to recover lost money for individuals and small businesses. There’s much more on this subject at https://www.icsmcredit.com/index.htm and at
http://www.harrymottram.co.uk/creative-services/insolvency-and-business-failure-news
/

For more features, news, views and reviews visit www.harrymottram.co.uk and follow Harry on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and God knows where else.

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Clintons are in talks with their landlords according to weekend reports

Clintons on the brink as talks open with landlords to save greeting card giant from collapse

A potential blow for the paper, card, envelope and printing industries has been announced with the news Clintons (formerly Clinton Cards) are seeking survival talks with their landlords with possibility of a CVA to save it.

Founded in 1968 by Don Lewin the High Street greetings card store known for its wrapping paper, Christmas and festive decorations and soft toys and gifts is on the brink of collapse according to weekend reports.

The BBC said: “The retailer, which has about 2,500 staff, is in restructuring talks with landlords in another sign of the High Street crisis. A spokeswoman told the BBC no decisions have yet been made. Clintons was responding to reports on Sunday that it wanted to close 66 out of 332 shops, with landlords slashing rents on most of the other stores. The restructuring would involve a controversial scheme known as a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), an insolvency process that allows companies to continue trading while pushing through closures and rent cuts.”

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said: “If Clintons go down it would be a body blow to the paper and card industries with printers and paper manufacturers hit. We have had feedback in the last few weeks from members of our credit circle that there were issues with the card shop chain. It’s also a sign of times with a fall in traditional cards that you post with a stamp, but also the general malaise felt in the High Street with declining sales for many business models.”

In October 1994 Clintons acquired 83 shops from Hallmark and a year later another 112 from Carlton Cards with the Birthdays chain acquired in 2004. In 2012 the firm was in trouble when American Greetings bailed them out to the tune of £36m only to fall into administration themselves. It led to mass closures and the selling off of 397 shops to Lakeshore Lending leaving the current stores to fend for themselves.

The Sunday Telegraph reported on November 10, that Clintons had told landlords 90 of its stores would close as they were loss makers. However it’s possible the axe may not fall immediately as the stores now expect their busiest time of the year with Christmas on the horizon.

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send at email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For more features, news, views and reviews visit www.harrymottram.co.uk and follow Harry on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and God knows where else.

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