HMRC winding-up petition puts 2,000 steel jobs in Stocksbridge and Rotherham at risk

Up to 2,000 jobs could be at risk after HMRC applied to wind-up Liberty Speciality Steels which has plants in Rotherham and Stocksbridge.

Thursday, 10th February 2022, 1:30 pm

The taxman has applied for a winding-up petition - an application to a court to close down a company - over unpaid debts believed to be in the tens of millions of pounds.

The petition is expected to be heard late next month, according to Sky News. If a winding-up order is issued, bank accounts are usually frozen and assets or property sold by the official receiver, according to Gov.uk.

The move comes after parent company GFG Alliance was left in turmoil following the collapse of lender Greensill Capital last year.

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Liberty boss Sanjeev Gupta, right, and Prince Charles on a visit to Speciality Steels in Rotherham.

A Liberty spokesman said the debts were ‘deferred from Covid’ when pandemic shut downs damaged trade.

The company was meeting its current liabilities today and demand at both sites was good, although energy prices were ‘hurting’, he added.

He said: “We have been safeguarding jobs and looking to repay creditors. If we don’t have time to refinance then jobs are lost and creditors lose too.”

He added: “Against a very challenging backdrop in the UK with record high energy prices and imports we have provided tens of millions in funding to keep our people in employment and maintain operations to serve customers and strategic supply chains while we complete our refinancing.

Liberty Speciality Steels, Stocksbridge. Picture: Chris Etchells

“We are in continuous dialogue with all our creditors including HMRC to find an amicable solution that’s in the best interest of all stakeholders.

“Short term actions that risk destabilising these efforts are not in anyone’s interest, and undermine creditor recovery at a critical stage in our debt restructuring efforts that seek to secure the future of our businesses.”

Rotherham MP Sarah Champion said: “The news that HMRC has served winding up notices on parts of Liberty Steel is deeply concerning.’

“Steel production is hugely important to Rotherham. Liberty is a key part of our local economy, both through those directly employed in steel production and for those connected to its supply chain. Workers will be understandably worried, and I will be doing all that I can to support them.

In the control room at Liberty in Rotherham.

“It is vital that the Government engages productively with Liberty to reach a solution that both stabilises the business in the short-term and ensures its long-term viability.

“Both Liberty and the Government must also provide immediate reassurances to workers who are concerned for their livelihoods at what is already an incredibly challenging time.

“Speciality Steels has huge potential, and it must not be sacrificed as a consequence of the difficulties faced by the wider Group. I will be engaging with all parties to secure a solution that protects jobs and the future of steel production in Rotherham.”

Gov.uk states: “Your creditors can apply to the court to close down your company. They do this by making an application called a ‘winding-up petition.

Rotherham MP Sarah Champion said: “Liberty is a key part of our local economy, both through those directly employed in steel production and for those connected to its supply chain. Workers will be understandably worried, and I will be doing all that I can to support them.’

“If the petition is accepted, the court will arrange a date for a hearing.

“If the court decides you cannot pay your debts, the court will issue a winding-up order and an officer of the court (‘official receiver’) will be put in charge of winding-up your company.”

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