St Helens schools lose money after lettings company collapse
Merseyside schools - including two in St Helens - lost more than £200,000 when a facilities lettings company collapsed last year.
School Lettings Solutions (SLS), which arranged the rental of school facilities to sports teams and community groups, went into administration last year owing hundreds of schools a total of more than £4m in unpaid hiring fees.
Among those were 17 schools in the Liverpool City Region who were owed a total of £217,982, money that would have been spent on school trips, books and other important supplies.
SLS’s directors said they were “heartbroken” by the impact these losses would have on disadvantaged children, according to The Times, and blamed the pandemic for their company’s collapse.
St Cuthbert’s Catholic High School, St Helens lost £5,097, while De La Salle School, St Helens lost £2,243
Pensby High School, in Wirral, lost the most of any Merseyside school, with SLS owing the school £55,066 when it went into administration. Pensby was one of nine schools owed more than £50,000 by SLS.
The school had been working with SLS since 2017, renting out its sports facilities and drama studios to local community groups in order to raise additional income.
As with the other schools it worked with, SLS took the payments from groups hiring out Pensby’s facilities and held onto it until the school invoiced for its share of the profits.
Figures published by the government suggest that the amount owed to Pensby High School is equivalent to more than half the school’s annual budget for learning resources including books, classroom equipment and school trips.
Another school that suffered significant losses in SLS’s collapse was Ormiston Chadwick Academy in Widnes, which was owed £42,471.
A spokesperson for the school said: “We previously used this organisation to manage the community’s use of our sports facilities, which is very important to us.
“As soon as we were notified they were no longer operating, we made new arrangements so that people could continue to make use of our facilities, as far as Covid restrictions allow.
“We are a very well-run school so there will be no impact on the quality of education we provide to our students.”
The De La Salle Academy in Croxteth was owed £32,011 when SLS collapsed, equivalent to a third of its learning resources budget.
Schools are expected to recover some of the money they are owed by SLS, but this is likely to be less than 10% of the total and could be as little as 3%.
According to a Times report, the company took a major hit during lockdown when schools were closed and team sports were banned, meaning it could not generate enough income to keep going.
However, company directors Paul Andrews and Scott Warrington also borrowed hundreds of thousands of pounds from the company to pay for a new family home and a holiday home and also leased several luxury cars through the company.
The directors said the leases were for company use in 2018 while the loans had been taken out “in good faith” when the company was “financially robust”.
Both men have since set up another company, Buddle Venues, offering similar services and working with schools including five in Merseyside.
All five lost money in SLS’s collapse, including the Academy of St Nicholas in Garston, which lost £12,860, and Litherland High School, which lost £7,488. The other three schools lost much smaller amounts.
Mr Andrews and Mr Warrington told The Times they had “always acted in good faith” and “upheld all of our responsibilities as company directors” and schools Buddle Venues is working with are aware of what happened to SLS.
They added: “Covid-19 caused us to lose our livelihood and we’re looking to rebuild positively for the future.”
The full list of schools in the city region owed money by SLS is;
Pensby High School, Pensby – £55,067
Ormiston Chadwick Academy, Widnes – £42,471
De La Salle Academy, Croxteth – £32,011
Childwall Sports and Science Academy, Childwall – £18,139
St Edward’s College, West Derby – £14,717
Academy of St Nicholas, Garston – £12,860
Holly Lodge Girls College, West Derby – £11,692
The Heath School, Runcorn – £7,800
Litherland High School, Litherland – £7,488
St Cuthbert’s Catholic High School, St Helens – £5,097
Redbridge High School and Bank View High School, Fazakerley – £3,040
De La Salle School, St Helens – £2,243
Sacred Heart Catholic College, Crosby – £1,943
Academy of St Francis of Assisi, Fairfield – £1,077
Liverpool Life Sciences UTC, Baltic Triangle – £964
North Liverpool Academy, Everton – £799
Hillside High School, Bootle – £572