The troubled Shetland building company JHB Ltd is being pursued by the taxman for nearly a quarter of a million pounds in unpaid tax and national insurance. If the remaining £228,634 is not paid next week HM Revenue & Customs could order the company to be wound up by a liquidator.
JHB admitted it was having serious problems a fortnight ago, forcing it to lay off 21 workers and undergo a drastic restructuring, but the scale of its debt problem became clear on Tuesday when a petition from HMRC was posted on the wall at Lerwick Sheriff Court requiring a response within eight days to prevent the firm being forced out of business.
Failure of the company would have serious implications for JHB’s customers, which include private house-builders and the Shetland Bus Friendship Society, which is having an £800,000 conversion done to the former Scalloway Woollen Mill to become the new Scalloway Museum.
JHB managing director John Halcrow said on Wednesday that HMRC was aware that the company’s future hinged on a council decision next week and would not be moving to have the firm wound up before then.
The firm has been pinning its survival hopes on starting a new scheme of 100 houses and other buildings between Upper Scalloway and Utnabrake but problems getting planning permission resulted in two-thirds of its workforce having to be shed at the start of this month.
A complaint of maladministration has been raised with the council against its planning service for its handling of the Scalloway application which was lodged back in July in a partnership with Hjaltland Housing Association.
Mr Halcrow made a special appeal to SIC convener Sandy Cluness to use his influence to ensure that the investigation into the serious complaint is completed in time to report the findings to the council meeting.
The company still hopes councillors will vote on Wednesday to grant permission for the first phase of 21 houses and outline planning permission for the rest of the estimated £30 million development. That would require the Full Council to overturn the planning board’s decision from January to defer the application for several months for further information.
An interim liquidator, Neil Armour of Aberdeen, is already standing by to be appointed should JHB not save the day. Revenue & Customs has stated JHB’s assets to be worth £248,435.
The overdue tax bill consists of £106,996 from the 2008/09 tax year and a three-month period to 5th November 2009, plus interest of £1,116. It also owes Class 1 contributions for JHB employees totalling £128,480 plus interest of £1,449.
The company was warned in a letter sent on 9th December that it had seven days to pay £238,041 or face being wound up. A payment of £9,407 was made but then nothing further, prompting this week’s petition to the court in Lerwick.