Pension contributions go missing at collapsed design and build firm

A Merriott Chard project

An investigation is set to be launched into missing pension payments at a design and build company which called in administrators just before Christmas.

Last month, Long Eaton-based Merriott Chard, which was owned by Stuart Ball, was sold to Seneco Group, which was set up on December 17 by the same person.

Administrators for the firm say they have been contacted by Merriott Chard’s auto enrolment pension scheme, run by NEST, over “significant arrears” in contributions as well as missing monthly returns, despite this cash being deducted from former employees. A statement from from Elwell Watchorn Saxton in Leicester reads: “It may become necessary for significant time to be spent on seeking to assist these employees in submitting claims to the Redundancy Payments Office for the unpaid pension contributions that are due to employees.”

Former employees of the company have also contacted with similar – and other – allegations.

The rise and fall of Merriott Chard, which was set up in July 2019, was swift. The firm prided itself on employing former armed services personnel. Documents seen by show that although Merriott Chard had seen “great success” in the early part of 2020, the staff it recruited failed to meet the necessary standards needed to complete projects on time and to the satisfaction of customers.

Alongside this, administrators from Elwell Watchorn Saxton say the firm racked up unpaid salaries of some £85,000 between June and December of last year. The same documents show that Seneco Group paid £63,000 for the stricken Merriott Chard business, which was made up of an initial deposit of £21,000 and £8,400 payable on 13th of each month for the next five months.

Elwell Watchorn says it has been contacted by former employees of Merriott Chard who were made redundant in November and December 2020 in relation to wages they are owed. An employment tribunal to adjudicate on the dispute is being arranged, according to administrators.

Creditors look set to substantially miss out on cash owed to them by the collapse of Merriott Chard. While preferential creditors, including those owed wages and pension contributions look set to receive 71p for every £1 they’re owed, HMRC could lose the almost £395,000 it is owed. Meanwhile, unsecured creditors also look to have missed out of any payments owed to them.

In total, Merriott Chard owed £1,386,191 when it went into administration. Ball offered no comment when we approached him.