Evesham boss changes tune on tax break scheme

2006: 'Not...dependent on HCI'. 2007: 'Blame HCI'

Evesham Technology chairman and founder Richard Austin appears to have performed an impressive U-turn over the reason behind the firm's current financial crisis, which has seen some 150 staff made redundant.

Austin has spent the last week blaming the government's withdrawal of the Home Computer Initiative (HCI) scheme for the home-grown British computer maker's downfall as he struggles to restructure the business with the help of Tahir Mohsan and administrators DTE Leonard Curtis.

But, in an interview with trade magazine Channel Business in April 2006 when the government first announced it was to axe the HCI, Austin's view on the matter appeared to be entirely different.

He said that, while other firms would suffer, Evesham had diversified its business plan enough to avoid being affected by the scheme's sudden withdrawal.

"Fortunately for us we have our feet in lots of different ponds. We are not totally dependent on HCI; it is only 12 or 13 per cent of our turnover. It is really not going to cripple us," he said.

By the time he spoke to El Reg in June this year, Austin had decided that his firm had been hit very hard by then-Chancellor Gordon Brown's apparent "U-turn".

The HCI scheme had offered tax breaks for employees, allowing them to hire purchase PCs through their pay packets. It was abolished by the government on 6 April 2006.

In a statement earlier this week, Austin underlined his criticism of the government: "We had heavily invested and allocated many resources to the HCI scheme and as a result around 150 loyal and hardworking Evesham staff have also unavoidably lost their jobs."

Earlier this week, mid-Worcestershire Tory MP Peter Luff weighed in on the Evesham blame game by firing off a letter to Prime Minister Brown.

He wrote: "I just wanted you to know that you are to blame for 150 P45s, 150 ruined lives, 150 job losses that were completely avoidable. And these were high technology jobs of precisely the kind my constituency needs." ®

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