How much Simon Rigby’s collective firms owe Preston City Council in unpaid business rates can be revealed.Advertisement
Mr Rigby placed Preston Guild Hall into administration in June after the venue had been closed in May.
Preston City Council took back control of the building, which it had leased to Mr Rigby on a 999-year lease, claiming there had been ‘significant breaches of the lease’.
Blog Preston can confirm the city council is attempting to recover around £300,000 in unpaid business rates from Mr Rigby in connection with the Guild Hall and its sub-businesses, many of them which were operated directly by Mr Rigby’s group for periods of time.
A spokesman for the city council also revealed the maintenance work they have been undertaking since taking back on the lease at the Guild Hall.
He said: “We have undertaken immediate health and safety procedures since taking it back.
“We needed to ensure the building is safe for public access, a key priority for us and also the businesses which continue to trade from the Guild Hall Arcade.
“We just didn’t know what kind of state it would be in when we entered, so had to take precautions.”
Safety checks and maintenance were carried out in the days after taking over the venue to check lifts, escalators, sprinkers, electrical testing, asbestos and the CCTV.
The city council also ran checks for any traces of legionella.
The main hall and Charter Theatre remains mothballed with no events planned. Maintenance on the building has already cost the city council thousands of pounds.
Leader of the city council councillor Matthew Brown told Blog Preston: “Having taken the urgent decision to take back Preston Guild Hall, the council is working tirelessly, following all necessary protocol to ensure that the building is safe for public access.”
Simon Rigby when approached for comment by Blog Preston said: “The rates are at the centre of our legal dispute so no comment at this stage.”
Asked about the maintenance of the Guild Hall, Mr Rigby said: “As far as I am aware we were up to date with all requirements.
“The Guild Hall is certainly in better condition than when we took it on in 2014.”
Mr Rigby said he was making no further comment about the Guild Hall at this stage.
Mr Rigby is facing a bankruptcy hearing in relation to Clifton Quality Meats on July 22.
Preston City Council has indicated it will be applying to join the existing bankruptcy process to recoup the unpaid business rates.
Cllr Brown said in late June: “It has become apparent that Mr Rigby is responsible for significant debts as personal guarantor, and there is an expectation that a number of these creditors will seek to join in on this bankruptcy hearing.
“Unfortunately Preston City Council is among this number, and we are actively considering using this, or any other reasonable means to recover the money owed.
“We hope that Mr Rigby is able to settle these debts and resolution is found.”
Read more: A timeline of events from the Guild Hall’s rebirth to implosion
Mr Rigby took on the venue for £1 from the city council back in 2014, and claims to have invested £6million into the Guild Hall.
He blamed the collapse of a deal with VMS Live, a venue management firm, as part of his reason to close the venue.
An attempt to reopen the venue by having it operated by The Rigby Foundation Charity was rebuffed by the administrators and the city council took on the lease for the building – which they had always continued to own the freehold for – on Friday 21 June and changed the locks.
Mr Rigby said he would be taking advice on whether to launch legal action against the city council.
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