It didn't take long for Asons to play the race card!
Bosses at under fire law firm Asons believe they are the victim of a ‘smear campaign’ and have stated that ‘politics and racism have no place in business.’
Asons has been at the centre of controversy ever since The Bolton News revealed that the firm had secretly received a grant of £300,000 from Bolton Council to help with its move to a new office in Churchgate.
Since that revelation, other Bolton-based law firms have hit out at the decision, with some even calling for Asons bosses to give the cash back.
After a period of silence, Asons has broken its silence, releasing a defiant statement which blasts the comments from other local solicitors as ‘judgemental, sanctimonious and opportunistic.’
A spokesman said: “Our competitors have been assuming the worst, based on limited information, and using social media and comments sections to employ dirty tactics — Asons has been the victim of a smear campaign.
“It’s disheartening to see the criticism that the awarding of this business grant has attracted, including the judgemental, sanctimonious and opportunistic comments from other local law firms and solicitors, and we hear that one of those has also been a recipient of this business grant.”
He added: “The personal attacks on Asons’ management are also unwarranted. Politics and racism have no place in business, and sadly, too many people and small law firms are using this grant scheme award as an excuse to push their own agendas.”
The firm has sought to explain the origins of the grant funding, explaining that land it had purchased from the council at Clarence Street — as part of plans for a new £8 million headquarters — reverted back to council ownership after it was not developed within three years.
The spokesman said: “In April 2013, fixed costs were introduced to the legal sector and these reduced legal fees have really affected our industry, made even worse for law firms by the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement 2015 announcement — this changed everything for the practice.
“In November 2015, our lease on our previous offices was due for renewal, and it was a case of relocating or being tied into a new five year lease of premises that no longer suited our needs.”
Asons said that when looking for new premises, the firm had many ‘attractive offers’ but found that Newspaper House in Churchgate was available at auction.
The spokesman added: “Bolton Council has the Bolton Town Centre Business Grant available to help local businesses and Asons had every right to apply for this, as do other Bolton businesses.
“The grant was to be awarded pending council approval and Asons going ahead with the purchase of 40 Churchgate, and the property was the most attractive option if the grant was to be awarded. Asons took their chance and proceeded to run with it.”
The firm said it spent a total of £1.7 million on the building, including £1.1 million purchase fees and a total of £600,000 on refurbishing the interior.
He added: “The Bolton Council business grant is a confidential matter, but a councillor chose to betray that confidence and leaked the details.
“Many other businesses receive the same type of funding and Asons have ploughed this grant back into supporting the Bolton economy by hiring local contractors and suppliers for the refurbishment.”
The firm said it projects it will pay £460,000 in business rates to Bolton Council over the next five years and said its employees put ‘thousands of pounds’ into the Bolton economy.
Asons said it had considered building a games room and roof terrace — a topic of much discussion following news of the grant — but said both ideas were shelved.
The firm — which said it is ‘neither incredibly wealthy, nor in serious financial trouble’ — is now looking forward to the results of the council’s independent audit into the grant, ‘so that the full details can exonerate all parties of any alleged wrong-doing.” Source