October 26 2014 Latest news:
Tom Bristow, Reporter
Thursday, July 12, 2012
A gangmaster with a £1m unpaid tax bill was banned from hiring workers after failing to pay staff the minimum wage.
The Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) stripped recruitment firm SFC Personnel of its licence after it scored three times the number of penalty points needed to ban a gangmaster.
The firm, based in Meridian Way, off Yarmouth Road, Norwich, went into liquidation owing almost £1m to the taxman, according to publicly available records.
The administrator’s report showed SFC owed £999,702 to HMRC, including £589,429 in unpaid VAT, in December.
But a spokesman for administrators P&A Partnership told the EDP the amount the company owed the taxman was yet to be agreed.
The licence-holder was declared “not a fit and proper” person to hold a licence by the GLA after misleading the watchdog about homes rented to workers, which put staff wages below the minimum wage, and failing a “competency test”.
The company hired out around 40 staff to 10 firms.
Paul Cunningham, the GLA’s head of operations in the East of England, said: “This demonstrates the ongoing work of the GLA in this area.
“We are pro-active and will take all necessary steps in order to prevent exploitation of workers.
“If that means closing a company down, so be it.”
GLA officers also found the licence-holder had little knowledge of the company’s finances, breaching a third regulation.
The firm was one of the first in the country to be granted a licence by the GLA, which was set up to curb the exploitation of workers following the Morecambe Bay cockle-picking disaster in which 23 Chinese cockle-pickers died.
A former director of the firm declined to comment.
A £2m plan to transform Palmers department store in Dereham and a neighbouring eyesore into an upmarket supermarket and clothing shop has been confirmed.