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North West council defends £202m loan to major local employer

Warrington Brough Council has been caught in controversy after making an unusually large loan to a company controlled by a billionaire.

The council handed the £202.133m to the Hut Group / Icon 3 Holdco, a report to its audit committee in July said.

The founder and chief executive of these concerns is Matthew Moulding, who with his wife Jodie was listed at 78 in the Sunday Times Rich List 2021 with a net worth fo £2.1bn.

Warrington’s cabinet approved the loan in October 2020, the report said, for a term of  seven years and so far three draw downs have been taken totalling £151.960m.

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A separate report to the committee on the local economy noted: “Distribution remains the main growth area for local employment. Pay and conditions are competitive at companies such as Amazon, Hut Group and Hermes.”

The October cabinet report did not refer to Hut Group by name but recommended entering the seven-year loan “for the promotion of economic regeneration in Warrington and the North West sub region and the related benefit of a financial return to be invested in Warrington”.

Hut Group’s website describes its work as: “We specialise in taking brands direct to consumers across the globe, taking some of the world’s most distinguished names in beauty and nutrition to the next level.”

A Warrington spokesperson said: “Our objective is to secure good quality jobs for local residents and to support the local economy. This arrangement is secured against assets and THG, as one of Warrington’s largest employers, has brought in a significant number of jobs locally.”

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