Staff hit out at luxury hotel over late pay and no pensions
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018
Workers at a luxury hotel which suddenly shut this month allege they were constantly paid late and have hit out at the running of the venue.
Lenwade House Hotel, on Fakenham Road, shut on Friday, January 10 leaving couples who had paid deposits for weddings in despair.
But ex-staff now say they too have been let down by the hotel.
The owner of Norfolk Hotel Group Ltd, Nick Scrivens, which ran the venue, said the business shut because its lease was coming to an end and they did not have enough wedding bookings in 2020 to continue.
"We picked a time where there would be as few casualties as possible," he said.
It is the third time a business running the hotel has gone into liquidation since the Scrivens took over the hotel lease almost 10 years ago.
In May 2013 a company called Lenwade Limited, owned by the Scrivens family, went under owing £433,000.
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Then in May 2017, a second company called Lenwade House Hotel Limited, was put into liquidation after failing to pay Broadland District Council business rates.
The council said it had been owed business rates by all six companies which ran the hotel.
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But Mr Scrivens said the previous insolvencies, as well as his personal bankruptcy in 2010, were "irrelevant".
He would not say how much Norfolk Hotel Group owed but said two of his firms had put lots of money into it.
He admitted some issues paying staff on time and making pension contributions but dismissed some of the accusations made by staff.
"Some of the things which were said are utter nonsense", he said.
On January 9 Mr Scrivens and his wife Jane sent staff a letter saying the hotel had "great difficulty trading" and was not able to pay its debts. A day before Mrs Scrivens sent a Facebook message to one staff member dismissing as "rumours" her query about the hotel shutting.
Mr Scrivens said up until the 9th they were in talks with someone who could have saved the business.
He said they were "very sorry" it had to shut.
Staff, however, have spoken out at the way they were treated there.
Tara Martin, 37, worked as a chambermaid at the hotel last summer from July to September but she said she quit when she claimed she was paid late.
"They didn't pay me for at least six to seven weeks," she alleged.
"They didn't issue pay slips either. When I complained I was fobbed off."
She also said when she checked with the Inland Revenue, they had no record of her working at Lenwade House Hotel.
The single mum, from the Heartsease, filed a complaint with arbitration service Acas but that ended when the hotel closed, she said.
Jack Stables worked at Lenwade House for around five years until September 2019.
"There were late paying people constantly," he said.
The 22-year old, who worked as a chef, said he asked for his pay slips when he left but never received them.
He also said he had no pension contributions displaying on his P45.
Mr Scrivens said staff could have got their pay slips if they asked.
He also admitted sometimes staff were paid late but only by a few days.
"If we had cleared funds in time, they were paid," he said. "Workers were paid for every hour they worked. They used a clocking on and off system."
But one woman, who did not want to be named, said: "I had to fight to get the money and never got any wage slips although I did ask
"There was a really high staff turnover in my time there."
She worked on the bar for several months last year and said she also had problems getting paid.
She also said that shortly after starting, debt collectors arrived at the building.
Mr Scrivens said debt collectors had shown up last year because of "financial difficulties" which was down to "the nature of the business".
One teenage staff member, who worked until the closure, said she was not shocked when the letter arrived telling her the hotel was shutting.
"It was a relief almost as it gives some closure to things, but I did feel angry towards Jane and Nick because they didn't tell anyone anything about it.
"Payments had been late," she added. "I had always been paid a few days late but that then turned into being paid weeks after the payment date."
She said she was owed around £400 and had last been paid in mid-November.
One former manager added: "The turnover of staff was ridiculous. Staff would be saying to me, where's our money?"
Mr Scrivens admitted issues with paying pensions.
He said most staff were not eligible as they did not earn enough money.
But he said those who did earn enough were not registered for pension contributions.
Employers must automatically enrol staff in pension schemes and make contributions if they earn more than £512 a month or £118 a week.
Mr Scrivens said Renaldy Hotels, the company through which staff were paid, had "not got round" to making the pension contributions.
The Pension Regulator said it could not comment on specific cases.
Renaldy Hotels is owned by Amie Renaldy, Nick and Jane's daughter, while Norfolk Hotel Group Ltd is owned by Mr Scrivens.
-Web of family firms
The Scrivens family own a web of companies through which the hotel was run and staff paid.
In the 10 years since they took over the lease of the hotel, six different companies appear to have run it at different times. All were either owned by Nick, Jane or their relations.
They include Lenwade Ltd, Country Hotels Ltd, Norfolk County Hotels Ltd, Lenwade House Hotel Ltd, Renaldy Hotels Ltd, Norfolk Hotel Group Ltd.
The last time one of those companies filed accounts was in 2014, making it difficult to work out how much debt the hotel got in to.
Mr Scrivens would not be drawn on an exact figure, but said it was "five figures" rather than six.
On the fact that six different companies ran the hotel, he said: "The hotel is a bottomless pit, it needed a lot money paying towards maintenance and upkeep.
"The lease was transferred from one operator to another."
-Business rates not paid
Mr Scrivens claimed all the businesses involved in the hotel had paid taxes owed, apart from one issue with business rates.
Lenwade House Hotel Ltd, owned by Jane Scrivens, was put into liquidation in May 2017 after failing to pay Broadland District Council business rates.
The firm was forced into liquidation by a judge after the council petitioned the High Court to wind it up.
The liquidator's latest report, from September 2019, said there was "no prospect" of creditors getting money back.
It added that the company did not deliberately avoid paying business rates.
Mr Scrivens said: "There was a legitimate dispute, I'm still in dispute with Broadland Council on that matter."
He added: "We have not done anything we shouldn't have done. My wife and I have done everything correctly."
But the council said all six firms which the Scrivens ran the hotel through owed them for business rates.
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