17/12/2012 Inside Out Yorkshire and Lincolnshire


Toby Foster presents three stories from Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. Steph McGovern investigates what was behind the collapse of Comet, the retailer which started life in Hull.

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We reveal what went wrong for Comet. We find out why we could all be


left out picking up the bill. In just destroyed a family business.


It seems far too easy for employers to say, you now in administration.


Also, Hyde Council tour rustling up extra bands by increasing the price


of everything from rat catching to cremation. It is a tax on the dead.


The Revenue isn't being reinvested in the crematorium service.


After a soaking summer, Paul investigates it we all have to get


Tomorrow will see the Comet name disappear from our high street as


the final stores close. The collapse of the retailer, which


started in Hull, has left thousands of workers redundant and will leave


the taxpayer with a multi-million- pound bill. We didn't all go so


It is one of the biggest retail casualties on the high streets.


is not just our family who are suffering, it is 6500 people who


are suffering. Tomorrow will see the final closing-down sales as the


stores are embodied of stock. don't understand how we could have


been making profits, but then told we had to close. What went wrong?


Why did Comet feel leading a massive bill for the taxpayers? I


have come to a halt to the old Business Centre for Comet. I wanted


to know what happens to that great Yorkshire brands that started here


in Hull almost 80 years ago. Comet began life to cash in on a boom in


wireless radio ownership set up by a man called George Hollingberry.


Robb, why are we here in the middle this industrial area? In the 1930s,


a couple but chaps got together and started to charge batteries for


people. Everybody wanted a radio in the 1930s, but the National Grid


wasn't very good. The equip the diversified, didn't they? They were


great. Any opportunity that came along, be made the most of it.


Hollingberry family are still entrepreneurs. Richard runs an


organic farm. His grandfather set up Comet and his father ran its


throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s. My father's idea was


discounting and out of town shops. He took on a site out of town,


bought Cloughton stacked high., was one of the first retailers to


persuade shoppers to leave the High Street for the out-of-town stores.


It was these discount warehouses that a Lord Alan Sugar described as


changing the face of retail. Decades of innovation followed a


Comet became a multi-million-pound business as part of the Kingfisher


retail group. Then the recession hit. Looking at these adverts from


the 90s, it was a tough time for Comet, wasn't it? It was. It was a


tough time for all retailers to the recession. What Comet field to do


was learn from that experience. Towards the end of the 90s, many of


their competitors had internet sites and Comet were late to that


game. My dear thing people stop going into the shops? Why would you


go into Comet if he could get a cheaper online? Comet seemed to


have lost direction. And 2011 did Jane made losses of nearly Mac --


up nearly �9 million and its owner wanted rid of the brand. Last year,


and its warranty business were sold. They were sold for just �1 each.


They were bought by a private investment company called OpCapita.


This deal went through in February. It was a deal that was closely


watched in this city and the monks but financial journalists. OpCapita


had a history. It is not the first time that we have seen OpCapita do


this with the British brand. controversy was MFI a went into


administration and it was OpCapita there were involved in this. Sure


enough, the structure of Comet was almost identical to MFI. OpCapita


picked the money for, -- the money for Comet into a parent company,


Hailey Acquisitions. There was �50 million given by the previous


owners, a �40 million loan and the money from the investors was 35


million. OpCapita did not put the money directly into Comet. It put


it into Comet into a parent company and loan that money to Comet.


Healey acquisitions will receive almost �50 million, but this is


significantly less than what it is owed, some �145 million. A bigger


financial mess than any of the workers expected. It is like a


bereavement, really. I am probably angry more than anything. My family


can see that I'm upset and getting snappy. When OpCapita took over, it


pledged to run Comet as a going concern for 18 months. It said they


had a definite turnaround plan. were told you would be focusing on


profit alone. Entry was said manager at a store in Halifax and


he thought things were looking up. All stores were hit in this targets,


this cash margin target and we were been told we were breaking even. I


receive my last paycheck today, and that received -- that had a bonus


attached to it because of my face seals. Greenfield it is far too


easy for companies to be put into administration. All those people


are now seeking alternative employment and they shouldn't have


too. It seems far too easy for employers to say, right, now we are


in administration. So why did, it - - so why did Comet end up in


administration? It was performing on target. Comet was in a difficult


part of the market and like-for- like sales were down. What OpCapita


say went wrong is that when rumours emerged that Comet could be sold by


them, the trade suppliers had tightened their terms. It meant


that Comet could not call out and buy stock at a viable economic


price. This meant that it wasn't were put in more money into Comet.


Nobody from OpCapita it or Healey acquisitions wanted to do an


interview. It in -- the did give us a statement, which include an


apology to Comet workers. It goes on to highlight their efforts to


revive the loss-making business including appointing a new highly


experienced management team. Explains how, it -- it explains how


Comet was unable to obtain credit on competitive terms. To trade at


Christmas would have needed a very substantial further injection of


capital and with no realistic prospect of obtaining it, the board


had no option but to appoint administrators. The collapse of


Comet will see the government picking up the bill for redundancy


and could cost around �24 million. A solicitor representing the


workers also believes they could be due additional compensation. We are


advising them on their collective consultation rights. When more than


20 redundancies are being made, they have the right to be consulted


on. As far as we can tell, they have just been making the


redundancies with no meaningful consultation. Honour contracts


state you're meant to have a consultation period, 90 days notice.


We haven't been given any of it. The administrators told us that


sometimes decisions about redundancy have to be made quickly


and, regrettably, it is not always possible to give advance notice to


workers. If the tribunal finds in favour of the staff, it is likely


this will again be compensation that comes from the public purse.


As well as their money, many workers want the Government to


investigate the collapse of the company. They want to know why the


law allows investors to walk away while the taxpayer is left of that


Still to come, a very wet ball huts and finds out why we might all have


to get used to as some are soaking. If things can get out of hand very


quickly. Making the pennies go further is a


challenge for all bus and it is no different for your local council.


They have had millions slashed of their budget. They are trying to


rustle up further cash which means higher charges for everything and


it means that what you pay depends on where you live. Times are tough


in the town halls across the North, as our local councils feel the


financial squeeze. As cuts start to bite, they have to make sure that


they are making money where ever they can.


You probably already think that you are paying enough for you council


services. I will find out who are charging the most and the least.


This is where I pulled it through. I pulled it round here and it ended


up on the steps. A few weeks ago, up all have had some unwelcome


visitors - rats. They are coming down the past. Their running all


over, under the leaves and everything. You're frightened to


open the door. I'm frightened of children coming to the house.


lack -- rats were looking for a new home. There was more unwelcome news


when all have phoned the council to get help. They said there was a �20


charge. I said I do not think we should be paying for that. North


Tyneside council introduced the charge in April as part of its


budget and hap offered to give all of advice on a rat problem. I think


this is something different. This is dirty. It is not nice. Maybe all


of should move. Northumberland, Hull, Doncaster and Staunton will


all sort out your rat problem for free. If it is three for them off


why shouldn't it be free for everyone? All but that -- becomes


the first person to receive the this Certificate from Inside Out. A


month that the ten councils in England facing the biggest cuts, he


will find Burnley, Barrow and Preston. Local authorities say they


have no choice but to hike up the charges. It seems no council


service is off-limits. Even in times of austerity, you would think


that at least one council service would be sacred. But it seems that


the fees charged for burials and cremations might be about to rocket.


One of the worst places could be Merseyside. Here, at the dead need


to be dead rich. The problem is that it should be a service to the


bereaved from the council. It is not a commercial business. This


Merseyside undertaker is severely unimpressed with plans to hike up


commission fees from a �600 to �750. I believe in some ways that it is a


tax on the dead. The Revenue is not being reinvested in the cemeteries


and crematoriums, it is going into the council's black hole. What


should they do instead? I think they can make cuts elsewhere. I do


not think that to Max knifes the revenue from one particular service


is the right way to go. Do not just take money because you can.


fact is that we have to try and make savings. We have to make


increases in charges and that is one of the many charges that has


been increased. What about other areas? In Cumbria, they are


proposing up to 15 % rise in fees. The cheapest is a Cheshire West and


Chester, St Helens and Durham. These are financially the best


places to die. I am afraid you are getting an Inside Out hard times


award. In these hard times, if you thought you could save a few


pennies by growing your own, I am afraid not. And at the moment, for


a plot this size, we would pay �24 down as rent and that is going to


be going up to �65, about a 170 % increase. I appreciate the have to


do some saving, but that is a phenomenal rise. Sheffield council


disputes this calculation and says that Government cuts and protecting


other services has forced it to raise these. It is an easy way for


the council to raise money. Sunderland is a good place to live


as it has one of the cheapest allotments in the north for just


around �10. But in at Bury and regions size plot will set you back


well over �100. Phil reluctantly accepts the insight it hard times


ought. So we are being hit in the pocket and some people think


councils should be looking hard at their peril before they put up


their charges. We're talking about middle managers being paid up to


�60,000 a year or more and they need to cut back on that sort of


bureaucracy. No one wants to see people made redundant for the sake


of it but at the same town councils are not employment exchanges. They


have to cut their cloth to suit their needs. I another way councils


are looking to raise cash is through sponsorship. Leeds City


Council of this sponsorship on their payslips. For �3,000 plus VAT


you can average-sized your wares on roundabouts. You can sponsor a


flowerbed in Lancaster's. In Newcastle, you can get your company


name on a litter bin. Our councils are us stuck for cash but they


could be sitting on assets like this temple to convenience. It is a


public toilet in the -- public toilet that is up for sale. Six


potential buyers have been sniffing around, including one who would


like to turn it into a bar. A whole array of goods are up for sale by


our councils. Newcastle's state carriage. �80,000. �12,000 worth of


old books sold by Manchester City Council on eat it. Up for sale,


Eden council's Mansion House, yours for one. Will -- �1.1 billion. This


it wedding venue is for sale by Wakefield Council. There is no


doubt that there are tough times and choices ahead for local


authorities. The difference in charges is stark. Why? And is it


fair? It is not unfair. Local authorities have their own


priorities and their own way of making their own budget. They also


have their own contexts in which to make those decisions. Each has to


cut its cloth accordingly. If people feel it is unfair in there


are various ways they can participate and have their say,


like the ballot-box Orok citizens' panels. Balancing books as


certainly going to be tough for Northern councils. Some will say


that they must make money for the can. As we cannot use will be get


air services from, it is no wonder that we looked enviously at those


in neighbouring areas who may be peeing a whole lot less. -- peeing


at less. You do not need me to tell you that


there is something strange going on with the weather. This year we had


a drought and then one of the wettest summers on record. Paul


Hodgson has discovered that there is increasing evidence that


miserable summers could become the norm.


It has been another of record- breaking year. The wettest summer


for a century and a distressing time for many. Now climate


scientists in Yorkshire are investigating whether something


significant is underway and are focusing their attention on what is


happening high above us. The jet stream is of a been of a really


strong winds high up and the atmosphere and has formed because


of the temperature contrast between the cold towards the Arctic and the


warmth towards the equator. The Jetstream decides what kind of


weather we have in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. It is to the north


was weather will be warm and settles but if it is to the south


of us it will be cold and wet. That is what happened this summer,


bringing us more extreme weather. All our houses were flooded. A lot


of people at the time were left with their businesses and their


homes and liveable. It didn't matter very where he would be


affected. For the Calder Valley in West Yorkshire is no stranger to


flooding. This summer at locals were left reeling as one month's


worth of rain fell in at day. and mud meant stock at this


furniture store was ruined. June was the wettest on record. The


rainfall was intense and fell in a short space of time. You can see,


looking at the ballet, it is very steep with sides sloping up.


Rainfall gathers and flows quickly down to the River Calder in the


bottom. You can visualise how things would get out of hand


quickly. Even living high on the hillside offered no protection. The


use are the steps that have flowed down and it flowed for an hour and


a half or so. This is how high the what Therese. We all saw the


pictures on television. What was it like? It was scary. You realise you


cannot stop it. You start thinking other stuff that is going to get


damaged. There is nothing you can do. We just had to wait for it to


end. It was the eerie and soul- destroying and for the first couple


of days you were living on adrenalin because there are lots of


stuff happening but then it hits you. And down the valley, is this


man Stewart also felt the full force of nature. Can you describe


to us what the weather was like? had about 48 hours of rain and then


at about 11 o'clock there was a cloudburst in the airier and the


river got up to about a foot below the height of the wall, which is


normal, but once the cloudburst started in Rosewell of the wall


here for the first time in 30 years. The with the enclosed a rogue banks


unable to cope, water poured into the furniture factory costing


millions of pounds worth of damage. Describe what you saw? Disaster. We


had about 12 inches of water in this area. All the sewing machines


were damaged. The whole heart of the couple's two factory is a


sewing room and we cannot do anything without sewing machines.


That was a disaster. The company is now back on its feet and taking


steps to build a high wall to stop the river flooding again. And it is


not only the Calder Valley that suffered. The summer floods in Hull


and Sheffield in 2007 caused chaos and widespread damage. For those


who gather Sheffield's daily whether it Statistics, these events


appear to show something significant is happening. It is one


of the longest data sets in the whole country. 130 years but.


seems some things do not change in Sheffield. Continuous rain! You


have something interesting there. This letter contains our coldest


ever recorded temperature. The 8th February in 19 -- 1885, it was 5.8


degrees Fahrenheit, that is minus 14.6 degrees Celsius. Sir you look


through their records and it is obvious we have had extremes


throughout the period. Have you noticed anything of interest in the


last few years. Absolutely, specifically with rainfall. We have


noticed that we are getting more of those cloudburst events where you


are recording up to 70 ml of rainfall in a single day. If you


look back over the record that we have here as a whole, we perhaps


got to were three of those events prior to 1970, and then in the last


ten years we have had my be four or five of these events. There does


seem to be a change. Flash floods are nothing new. But are they


happening because of the weather 2000 miles away in green and?


Recent summers have been warmer, drier and sunnier. We would


normally expect parts of the massive price cut is all in summer,


but this year there has been a record melt and for those who have


regular visitors to green land, like this polar explorer, the


change has been obvious. So that put loss of ice, or what does that


mean on the ground here? I have been working on the west coast on


this science project. When I went in a few years ago with Mike bits


on, I got out their helicopter to walk three kilometres out onto the


ice cap and I got there and there was so much water that I had to get


back in their helicopter, flew back and bought fishing waders so that I


could weed out to have a metre of water to Messiaen's site.


Everywhere I go there is more water, more rock and a lot less ice.


climate scientists now believe that what is happening thousands of


miles away is having an impact on a weather. A loss of sea ice and more


heat over the Arctic appears to have weakened the speed and pattern


of the Jetstream, making it meander. It has meant more at low pressure


over Britain and more unsettled summer weather. I know only too


well the long-range forecasting is the most difficult part of my job.


But I am about to meet someone who thinks he has made a breakthrough.


Dr Edward Hanna is a jet stream expert and his team has studied its


movement your last six years, a period that has coincided with our


summer washouts. We have noticed a striking change in the last six


years. You can see that in the last six years, but circulation has been


much more wavy and meandering, compared with the average for the


longer period of the last 30 years, of which is in the middle there.


Which should mean weather patterns are the become entrenched and last


for longer. So if you have a theory is correct and that scientists are


correct, what are the implications for a summer's across Yorkshire and


Lincolnshire? We might get more of these colder, wetter summers, but


there is going to be more variation in weather conditions the


experience. I think we're going to have to get used to a lot of cold,


wet weather. More research at Sheffield is underway, but their


work suggests that although there will be the occasional scorching


summer, we should get ready for more of the same. And with what a


lot crops and higher food prices, we are all likely to feel the pinch.


Back in the Calder Valley, sandbags have become a way of life. But what


about the future? Historians know that in the Calder Valley, we have


had these sort of floods for the last two when the cheers. This one


has been extreme and possibly there has been nothing like it in the


last 50 years, but we cannot take the chance. We do not what this to


happen again. Are we could have years of this to come. How does


that make you feel? It needs to be raced up the agenda so that all the


agencies that can work together see it as a higher priority. That is


all for tonight. Paul Hodgson will be back with a special programme


about this year's wild weather on Sunday 30th December. Have a merry


Toby Foster presents three stories from Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

Steph McGovern investigates what was really behind the collapse of Comet, the electrical retailer which started life in Hull.

And Paul Hudson finds out whether we need to prepare for more extreme weather.

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