Yesterday saw the anniversary of a notable event in Beeston: it was one year since Wilkinson’s closed its doors, got rid of half it’s staff and sprinkled the rest around the area on reduced wages and lesser roles. The reason for this, of course, was to demolish the large site for the tramworks.
A year on, the building is still there, empty, useless, undemolished. Why? Trying to find an answer to that is harder than you’d think: when I’ve requested reasons from relevant parties I’ve been rebuffed, or misdirected. Wilkinson’s seem happy by the arrangement: they got out at the top of the game, managing to secure a huge payout, and able to blame it all on anyone but themselves.
I recently asked them how much they received, and they denied they’d received anything, yet this is merely a sleight of hand and how they choose to interpret the payoff. At the public meeting I held a few months ago relating to the Square, Cllr. Pat Lally admitted it was a significant figure, but would not venture any precision when pressed.
A year on, and we have an eyesore where we could have had a thriving retail unit. The staff – the ones that kept with the company – are still disgruntled. One recently told me that Wilkos Head Office admitted, through the visit of an HR lackey, that they had ‘handled the staff situation badly’. They were also told what I suspect they knew all along: they won’t be returning.
There explanation for this is that they couldn’t identify a site in Beeston that was adequate to it’s needs. This is despite Henry Boot Developers bending over backwards to accommodate Wilkos into a future site as part of the new Square developments. The correct reason, I believe, lies in the small print of the contract that shut them down: to return would forfeit a chunk of the compensation package. The repeated promises that they gave over last year, each one expounding how committed they were to Beeston, was, frankly, a load of balls.
I recently wrote about Boots for The Beestonian, focussing on their tax arrangements that saw them moving their registered office from Beeston to Zug, Switzerland. I stressed this was not in anyway illegal, and Boots is a business, not a charity. My gripe was the ethical nature of this, and how it contrasted with the philanthropy of it’s founder Jesse Boot. Wilkinson’s is similar here: it was always seen as a local, friendly company. Wilkos in Beeston was exactly that. The staff were diamonds, and it proved a life-line to people who eschew Tesco but still need household stuff.
Wilkos, like Boots, have squandered this goodwill. They took the money, and they ran. A squalid situation.
I’m very busy running the Nottingham County Council election blog right now so Beestonia is suffering a bit of neglect. I’ve got loads of stories backing up, including the story of Field Farm. This is proving to be a highly contentious issue and, good heavens, it’s tough to draw up a coherent narrative. This is far from a simple Evil Developers versus Good Green-belt Protectors, rather a crash-course in local planning legislation for a lot of people. What I’ve already heard and seen regarding the issues could fill a chunky volume that would make War and Peace appear skinny: I’ll hopefully trim it into something approaching readable soon.
I’m also looking for more politicians/potential politicians to interview: I’m still waiting on replies from a Tory, a Labour one and a UKIPper. Email me at email@example.com if you’d like me to come over and have a chat about why YOU should be a councillor come early May.
The Nottingham Post has given me a few column inches on Wednesday to spout off about a Beestonian subject, taking over the space Erik Peterson usually so wonderfully fills, weekly. Please go out, buy it, ignore the godawful by-line pic, and then form an orderly line for autographs.