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Saturday, December 04, 2021

Billionaire Tory's firm claims millions in public cash

There is yet another in a long line of covid cash stories in today's Independent, who reveal that a billionaire Tory donor’s firm continued to claim millions of pounds’ worth of taxpayer-funded furlough money after recording a £75.3m profit.

The paper says that Malcolm Healey’s company, Wren Kitchens, used public funds to help bankroll its staff costs during the Covid pandemic even though it banked tens of millions of pounds’ worth of pre-tax profits in its 2020 accounts. It came as Healey personally donated £500,000 to Boris Johnson’s party in December 2020, meaning he has given the Tories over £2.3m since 2017, according to Electoral Commission records:

An analysis earlier this year found Healey – who resides in a 12,000-acre estate and has been described as a reclusive figure – had been the largest individual donor to the Conservatives since Johnson entered Downing Street.

Kitchens tycoon Healey’s firm received £15.5m in 2020 via the government’s job retention scheme, set up to help struggling businesses pay staff during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to its latest accounts.

But rather than feeling the pinch during the pandemic, the kitchen manufacturer saw its pre-tax profit climb to £75.3m in the 12 months to the end of December 2020, up from £65.1m the previous year.

There is no suggestion Healey’s firm has broken any rules but a Labour MP said the use of the scheme went against “the whole spirit” of it, labelling it “immoral”.

Many companies which claimed furlough money during the pandemic either stopped doing so when they endured the crisis better than expected, or paid funds back. Instead of handing furlough money back to the taxpayer, Wren Kitchens continued to claim from the public purse in 2021, receiving more than £3m in furlough payments, according to an analysis of HMRC data by The Independent.

That levelling up agenda is going well then.
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