Back in the day: an advert for the Norton Commando 750cc
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.”
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.
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For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk