ICSM Credit: for our economy’s sake get a deal with EU; plus the firm refusing to pay business rates; and the Post Office scandal sees convictions quashed

ICSM Credit: for our economy’s sake get a deal with EU; plus the firm refusing to pay business rates; and the Post Office scandal sees convictions quashed

It is looking increasingly likely that the UK will enter 2021 on World Trade Terms with the EU even if a last minute deal is agreed.

Commentators believe there’s not enough time to put the deal to parliament in a ratification vote. Writing for RTE today (14 December) Tony Connelly reported: “The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has told member states that there could be a short no-deal period at the beginning of January even if a deal is reached with the UK in the coming days, RTÉ News understands. This would be because both sides would have run out of time to implement their own legal procedures even to bring the treaty into force provisionally on 1 January. A senior source told RTÉ News that a no deal interregnum would be ‘probably the most likely’ scenario unless agreement is reached in the next few days.”

Get a deal

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said a no deal would be bad for business with many of the credit intelligence group members concerned about tariffs and hold-ups at the ports and airports.

“Business likes certainty,” he said, “otherwise it is impossible to plan ahead. Even if a deal is agreed it could be weeks before we see all the small print. With the lockdowns created over Covid-19 business is in a bad place as it is. We need a deal and we need confidence to return.”

The UK and the EU have until 11pm (EU time) on 31 December 2020 to agree a trade deal as well as other things, such as fishing rights. If there is no deal then border checks and taxes will be introduced for goods travelling between the UK and the EU. Ian Carrotte said one of the concerns was over a hike in prices caused by shortages, delays and stockpiling.

“If that happens then the recession begun this year could turn into a depression,” he added, “with a scenario we haven’t seen since the 1980s.”

Prison on principle

The Grocer have reported on a case dear to the hearts of many in business. Writing for the trade magazine Lyndsey Cambridge reported on a wholesaler who is prepared to go to prison after refusing to pay thousands in business rates.

She reported: “A London wholesale boss has told Boris Johnson he is willing to go to prison rather than pay business rates while other sectors benefit from relief. MD Darren Labbett has written to Johnson complaining of the ‘injustice’ of the sector not being included in the rates relief dished out to its hospitality customers. Labbett told The Grocer the decision to withhold £45,500 in business rates for September to December this year was a response to the government shunning wholesalers from the exemption which was given to hospitality outlets and supermarkets in the spring.”

Her report continued with Darren Labatt giving his reasons.

“If they hadn’t given business rate relief to all of my customers I would have got on with it,” said Labbett. “But it’s not just unfair, it’s wrong. We keep asking the government why we have been left out like this but they refuse to answer the question. In the grand scheme of things it’s peanuts, but to us it’s a lifeline.”

Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said he hoped the business man would succeed citing it as a test case for thousands of businesses affected by the fall-out from Covid-19 restrictions.

Court victory

ICSM Credit have reported on the on-going scandal of how a few managers at the privatised Post Office managed to use the faulty computer system Horizon to convict scores of Postmasters of fraud.

“They were tricked into believing they were taking cash from the businesses,” said Ian Carrotte, “when in fact the computer software was falsifying accounts. Some lost their livelihoods, homes and liberty in one of the greatest injustices in the history of the Post Office. Finally some of them are getting a redress, but what they need is financial compensation and the culprits in the Post Office management team put on trial.”

The BBC reported: “Six former sub-postmasters have had fraud convictions linked to a faulty computer system quashed in court. The long-running scandal began when the Post Office installed a new computer system that led to hundreds of sub-postmasters being wrongly convicted. Having a criminal record put many of those affected in dire financial circumstances.

Lawyer Neil Hudgell of some of the Postmasters who had their convictions overturned said:  "Lives were destroyed by this huge injustice. The Post Office must now respond in the right manner with appropriate offers to right some of the wrongs of the past two decades, and ensure people are properly compensated."

The hearing at Southwark Crown Court comes two months after the Post Office confirmed it would not oppose or contest 44 of the first 47 cases referred to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

The BBC said: “The Horizon system, developed by the Japanese company Fujitsu, was first rolled out in 1999 to some post offices to be used for a variety of tasks including accounting and stocktaking. But from an early stage, it appeared to have significant bugs which could cause the system to misreport, sometimes involving substantial sums of money. It was difficult for sub-postmasters to challenge errors because they were unable to access information about the software to do so. After more than 900 prosecutions, 550 sub-postmasters raised civil actions against the Post Office which agreed to pay £58m damages.

“The English Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred 47 convictions brought under Horizon evidence to the Appeal Court. The Director of Public Prosecutions is also considering whether there should be charges of perjury against Fujitsu officials who claimed in court there were no problems with Horizon, even though emails and other documents now suggest they knew there were.”

BBC Radio 4 carried out an investigation into the scandal and broadcast a series on how it came about. Visit https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000jhpl

About ICSM Credit

ICSM Credit has more than four decades of experience as a credit intelligence group whose members gain inside information about firms in trouble allowing them to avoid bad debts and rogue traders. To join costs less than a tank of fuel - while at the moment there's a special free temporary membership offer during the Covid-19 crisis which gives access to free legal letters. ICSM also has an effective debt collecting service which has a global reach - ask for details from Paul.

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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