London Fire Brigades Union is alarmed at a new move which could bankrupt the firm which owns London fire engines and 50,000 pieces of safety critical equipment. Any such move could see creditors move to sell the companyâ€™s assets to recover their debts.
Northern Bank based in Belfast, has lodged a creditors’ petition â€“ a move to bankruptcy â€“ over a Â£1.3m debt owed by Assetco. If the bankâ€™s debt is not paid the petition will be heard on 29 June 2011.Â
The company told shareholders earlier this month it can only pay parts of its loans. It informed them of the move by Northern Bank earlier this week.
The deeply troubled company is still in the running to secure a contract to train Londonâ€™s firefighters. It is playing a key part in the Capital Training Solutions consortium, one of three preferred bidders to be chosen by the end of the year.
Challenged by the FBU, London fire brigade said its financial experts had examined each member of the consortium, including AssetCo, and confirmed the bidders were financially â€˜stableâ€™. This was only days after the company told shareholders it could not pay off all its loans.
Ben Sprung, London FBU regional organiser said: â€œThe company which owns and maintains our fire engines and 50,000 pieces of equipment is staring bankruptcy in the face. We could end with all Londonâ€™s fire engines and kit being put up for sale to settle the debts.
â€œProfits have crashed, the share price has collapsed and top staff, including a new finance director, have recently left. It now canâ€™t keep up all its loan payments and there is a move towards bankruptcy.
â€œLondon fire service first said it had guarantees this could not happen but could not produce them. Now it says it has contingency plans if it does happen but they wonâ€™t say what they are.
â€œThere is a serious crisis looming and the only ones raising public concerns are the capitalâ€™s firefighters. It is a scandal that the ownership and maintenance of critical equipment is in the hands of a company which has reached this state.
â€œThere are serious issues of public safety here. The fire authority need to set out what it has done and what fallback plans it has. The mayor needs to get a grip on this before its too late.â€
Media contact: Ben Sprung 075800 067088