"Here's to the next variation!"
Wright Hassall's partners have kept £300,000 in government Covid grants despite rocketing profits.
In 2021, the Leamington Spa-based firm called on the taxpayer to provide it with £305,013 to help stave off the effects of the pandemic. However, the money failed to protect jobs and Wright Hassall’s headcount dropped from 285 staff to 244. Its annual accounts show that 30 fee-earners left the firm, which a year later is advertising to fill 21 positions.
A spokesperson for Wright Hassall defended the firm's conduct, telling RollOnFriday, "At the start of Covid our business was impacted to a large degree. Some staff were furloughed to protect their jobs and that is what the funding was used for".
”We were sadly unable to maintain all those posts and were forced to lose staff but the funding did exactly what it was intended to do and was fundamental in preserving jobs at a very testing time", he said.
As a result of the swingeing job cuts, Wright Hassell's wage bill plummeted from £13.6m to £9.4m. Conversely, the profits available to be divided up amongst the firm's 13 equity members soared from £1.85m to £2.86m.
The pandemic proved especially profitable for the highest paid member of Wright Hassall, who enjoyed a £175k pay rise last year. A year earlier they had to make do with £225,514, but in spite of their best efforts to protect their employees rather than enrich themselves, their income in 2021 rocketed to £399,266. It was the most the firm's highest-earning member of the firm has been paid since 2016.
Wright Hassall's spokesperson said, "As with many businesses, we adjusted and thanks to the dedication of our people, in time, our levels of businesses [sic] increased and our fortunes returned, and this is reflected in the rise in income and fees across our firm".
He declined to identify the person whose "fortuned returned" the most, saying, "We do not comment on detailed financial matters or reveal personal salary details". RollOnFriday asked Wright Hassall whether its partners had any intention of repaying the £300k. It declined to answer.
Wright Hassall joins Vardags - which also clung on to government grants while popping champagne corks on a bumper year - in the Wuhan wet market of shame.