Design Company Awarded £25m PPE ContractApplies to be Struck Off Without Submitting Any Accounts
Luxe Lifestyle Ltd, which provided 9m unusable items during the Coronavirus crisis via a ‘VIP lane’, has applied to be struck off without reporting how the money was spent
Design company Luxe Lifestyle Ltd was awarded a multi-million pound contract in April 2020 to supply garments for biological or chemical protection to the NHS. According to Companies House, the business was incorporated by fashion designer Karen Brost in November 2018.
Research by the Byline Times in July 2020 revealed how the company appeared to have no employees, no assets and no turnover. In the same month, it applied to have its current accounting period extended from 30 November 2020 to 30 April 2021.
In December 2020, it submitted accounts for a ‘micro company’ that revealed assets of just £27,629 as of the end of November 2019, around five months before it was awarded the multi-million-pound government contract. It also reported no employees during this accounting period.
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The publication of the company’s accounts with Companies House is important for understanding how the £25m was spent. It was contractually obliged to provide 1.2 million gowns and 10 million FFP2/KN95 masks to the NHS during the Covid-19 crisis.
However, the firm has not produced any financial statements, which are required annually, since December 2020. In the meantime, Luxe Lifestyle applied to be struck off the company register last month. This means the owners of the company plan to dissolve it.
The application has since been suspended after an objection was lodged with the registrar of Companies House on 11 February 2023. Companies House falls under the remits of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and the department has been contacted for comment.
No History of Trading
Byline Times’ earlier investigation into the company’s background using business information provider Endole revealed no evidence that the company has actually done any trading at all.
Brost was previously the secretary of another company called Belharra Limited which described itself as a clothing and footwear wholesaler, yet this was wound up around four months before Luxe Lifestyle Ltd was incorporated.
Brost also set up another brand in March 2020 called Zazaboom, the products of which include handmade designer face masks costing £25 each, not NHS standard PPE.
Brost did not respond to a request for comment back in July 2020. However, an anonymous person claiming to be a spokesperson for Brost contacted Byline Times after the publication of this article using mlilimited.com as an email address. After multiple requests, they refused to identify themselves or pass on contact details for the company or its directors.
Links to So-called VIP lane
However, additional reporting by the Guardian yesterday has managed to elicit a response from the company. It was reported that the firm benefitted from the government’s so-called VIP lane after the new Conservative chair, Greg Hands, was approached by a local Tory activist.
It is understood Hands, then a trade minister, made a referral to officials in early April 2020 after a Conservative activist, Mark Higton, approached him about a contract offering PPE and other items.
Leaked documents, obtained by the Good Law Project, later listed a PPE contract as “Minister Hands/Luxe Lifestyle” and the point of contact as “Mark Higton”, a former chair of a neighbouring constituency association.
A subsequent freedom of information request revealed that 9m items worth £20m provided by Luxe Lifestyle were labelled “do not supply” by the government, meaning they were not used.
A spokesperson for Luxe Lifestyle told the Guardian: “Luxe Lifestyle’s contract to supply PPE was negotiated on an arms length basis through MoD procurement officers, seconded to the DHSC [Department of Health and Social Care]. The company was awarded a single contract for two out of six products offered via a competitive process based on price and availability.
“No minister was ever directly contacted by the company and all products offered were uploaded on to the relevant DSHC PPE procurement website established by the government at the time of the pandemic for review and assessment alongside other PPE providers. No one at the company has ever contacted or spoken to Greg Hands.”
The Guardian reported that the company was not informed by the DHSC of any problems with the items it provided. Hands denied having any knowledge of the outcome of the procurement process.
The Government also maintained that ministers had no involvement in any procurement decisions.