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Pete Wishart calls for OVO to explain £40 million in loans and cash transfers

Pete Wishart.

Perth MP Pete Wishart is calling for OVO Energy to give assurances £40 million of loans and cash transfers could not have been spent on saving hundreds of jobs.

OVO Energy says it is planning to make 1,700 people redundant and close down its offices in Perth and Dunfermline.

This is despite the energy company promising there would be no job losses when it bought over SSE’s retail arm in January 2020.

However Pete Wishart, MP for Perth and North Perthshire, and Sharon Graham, general secretary at Unite the Union, now want the company’s CEO Stephen Fitzpatrick to confirm £40m he has moved around his various companies could not have been used to retain these vital jobs.

Millions moved around

Mr Wishart says accounts at Companies House show OVO was charged £21m by its parent company Imagination Industries to cover “brand royalty fees” – this parent company is also controlled by Mr Fitzpatrick.

Other transactions the pair are questioning include a £5.6m loan from Imagination Industries to Vertical Aerospace, which builds electric air taxis, and a £4.4m loan to Imagination Industries Incubator Ltd, and £1.6m to software development firm Imagine Just 3 Things Ltd.

Millions more has also been loaned to affirm called Imagination Industries Aero Ltd.

OVO also received £17m in furlough payments from the UK Government during the coronavirus pandemic.

While there is no suggestion any of these transactions are illegal, Mr Wishart says Mr Fitzpatrick needs to assure the public this money couldn’t have been spent on retaining jobs and keeping offices open, and that none of this money came from the acquisition of SSE retail.

Money needs ‘properly investigated’

Mr Wishart said: “Some of the financial issues need to be properly investigated.

“We need to have assurances that money hasn’t been used in other companies – which have nothing whatsoever to do with the energy retail market – that could save jobs at OVO.

“I think Mr Fitzpatrick has to explain exactly what has been happening here, and there are serious questions about how some of this money has been moved around certain of his companies.

OVO Energy office in Perth

“We need to know that this has not had an impact on jobs that are now going to be lost in Scotland.”

Mr Wishart, along with his SNP MSP colleagues John Swinney and Jim Fairlie, had met with Adrien Letts, the CEO of OVO’s retail business last week to discuss the redundancies.

The meeting was dubbed a “disappointment” by the three politicians, who had called for Mr Fitzpatrick to personally attend the meeting.

Mr Wishart is now re-issuing his call for Mr Fitzpatrick to meet with them himself at the beginning of February.

Fitzpatrick defends accusations

Mr Fitzpatrick told the Sunday Mail: “I founded OVO Energy with my own savings in 2009 and still own more than 60% of the company.

Stephen Fitzpatrick, founder and CEO of OVO Energy

“The OVO brand licensing agreement was set up in 2014, as we prepared for external investment, and is a common commercial agreement put in place to protect brand ownership.

“The licence fee is budgeted for annually as a normal business charge and has been referenced in all of our accounts filed at Companies House over the last eight years.

“Imagination Industries pays full UK taxes on its licence fee income, and has already reinvested these funds into founding several new businesses, including Vertical Aerospace, and electric aircraft company based in Bristol.”

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