The Bolton law firm at the centre of an escalating row over the award of a ‘secret’ £300,000 council grant has alleged it is the victim of a ‘smear campaign’ and ‘dirty tactics’ by local solicitor rivals.
In a defiant statement this afternoon, personal injury firm Asons has also hit out at ‘personal attacks’ on its management, led by chief executive Dr Imran Akram, declaring that ‘politics and racism have no place in business’.
‘It’s disheartening to see the criticism that the awarding of this business grant has attracted, including the judgemental, sanctimonious and opportunistic comments from other local law firms and solicitors,’ the statement reads.
‘Our competitors have been assuming the worst based on limited information, and using social media and comments sections to employ dirty tactics. Asons has been the victim of a smear campaign. Small law firms are using this grant scheme award as an excuse to pursue their own agendas.’
The grant award from Bolton council was for refurbishment of Asons’ new offices in the town’s Churchgate, raising questions about use of secret emergency funding for an apparent office move. But Asons has today published a detailed account of the application.
Lower, fixed fees and last year’s announcement by the chancellor George Osborne of far-reaching personal injury reforms ‘changed everything for the practice’, the statement says.
The lease on Asons’ previous offices was due for renewal and ‘it was a case of relocating or being tied into a new five-year lease of premises that no longer suited our needs’.
Churchgate was found to be available at auction and the firm says it had ‘every right’ to apply for funding under the Bolton Town Centre Business Grant to help local businesses.
The grant award required council approval and Asons going ahead with the purchase.
The statement adds: ‘£1.7m in funds were spent on the building, and this can be broken down as £1.1m for the purchase of the property and £600,000 in total on the refurbishment and interior.
'The Bolton council business grant is a confidential matter, but a councillor chose to betray that confidence and leaked the details. Many other businesses receive the same type of funding. Asons have ploughed this grant back into supporting the Bolton economy by hiring local contractors and suppliers for the refurbishment.’
Asons also rebutted criticism of its seemingly lavish accommodation. The new office does not have a games room or roof terrace, says the statement – these were never built. 'In common with many businesses, we have a few facilities that boost employee morale, such as a football table, spread around the building,’ it adds.
Asons says it is neither 'incredibly wealthy, nor in serious financial trouble or close to being dissolved’, as some social media observers have speculated.
Council chiefs under fire over ‘emergency’ grant to solicitors firm
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‘Dirty tactics’ and ‘racism’: Asons lambasts rival solicitors over council grant