Staff from three hotels not paid since Christmas launch battle for wages
PUBLISHED: 16:22 12 February 2020 | UPDATED: 08:34 14 February 2020
More than 20 people who lost their jobs after three hotels in East Anglia were suddenly closed are battling to claw back thousands in unpaid wages.
Staff at the Norwich's Wensum Guest House, in Dereham Road and the Stracey Hotel, also in Norwich, lost their jobs when the venues closed at short notice.
The Brandon House hotel, in High Street, Brandon, has also closed.
The workers claim they have not been paid since Christmas and have now launched a crowd-funding drive in a bid to raise the £3,000 needed to pay the legal fees. Staff claim their only hope of recouping what they are owed is to force their employers - Newmarket-based property management firm Camelotpm - into insolvency.
They have been told the cost of instructing a solicitor to fight their battle in court will amount to more than £3,000. The government's insolvency service only pays out when a company is formally liquidated.
The hotels, which were owned by a Cambridge-based businessman Ken Finneran, were repossessed after he told this newspaper he got into financial difficulties but staff were employed by leaseholders Camelotpm.
But since the hotels shut down the staff have been unable to contact anyone from Camelotpm.
One staff member, Anthony Salter, 46, who was a breakfast chef at the Brandon House hotel, lost both his job and home because he and his wife lived on site.
"I am angry and upset," he said. "None of us have been paid our wages, we weren't paid in January and we've had no contact with any of them."
He is now in the process of taking legal action.
Another member of staff - who asked to remain anonymous - said they were told in a phone call - after 4pm on Friday, January 31 - by Mr Finneran to close the Wensum Guest House hotel immediately. However, because guests had already checked-in, the hotel stayed open until Monday, February 3.
"None of us have been paid, and basically they've cut all communication," the staff member said. "We knew things weren't right but we didn't know things were that bad. It was awful having to turn away guests."
Mr Finneran, who is CEO of a new telecommunications firm called Bongotel, said his hotels were repossessed after he got into financial problems.
He added: "I do feel sorry for the staff but I am more out of pocket than anybody. I had £15m worth of property and I've lost everything, I have nothing left, it's all gone. I've got no money, it all went pearshaped."
A spokesman from receivers Duff & Phelps, based in London, said they had been appointed to repossess the buildings but had "no control over the businesses that traded there".
The firm issued a statement saying: "James Liddiment and Paul Greenhalgh, both of Duff & Phelps, were appointed LPA fixed charge receivers to several properties owned by KTF Property Limited (in liquidation) and AANDK (BHH) Limited. The appointment was made with effect from June 11, 2019. The properties include Wensum Guest House, Brandon House Hotel and Stracey Hotel.
"The receivers are not in possession of the properties which they understand have most recently been occupied and traded by Camelotpm Limited. By extension the receivers are not in control of, nor responsible for, the trading elements to the properties, including any employees.
"The liabilities associated with the trading businesses that operated from the properties, including all sums owed to employees, are believed to be due from Camelotpm Limited. The receivers are appointed only over the properties, not the trading entity, therefore creditors should continue to liaise with the directors of the entities with which they had a contractual relationship with regard to any sums due. The receivers have sympathy for employees that are owed monies but are not able to assist further as this is outside of their responsibilities. Employees may wish to seek help from ACAS, the Citizens Advice Bureau or a solicitor."
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Giles Reardon-Smith, director of Camelotpm, was approached for comment.
The staff crowdfunding page, which was set up this week, states: "On 31/01/2020 employees of Camelotpm were told that their employment was no more and their wages and employment rights would not be honoured by the company. Furthermore the company still has not been wound up, and until it is, there is no chance of recovering money owed as the government's insolvency service only pays out when a company is formally liquidated.
"Many families are struggling to meet their monthly financial obligations."
The Wensum Guesthouse website states the hotel is "permanently closed" and you are unable to book accommodation on the Brandon House hotel website. The Stracey Hotel website is no longer online.
Notices on both the Wensum Guesthouse and Stracey Hotel state "Camelotpm still occupy this building ... closed for company restructure".