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Welsh firm collapses after government spelling error

A basic spelling mistake by Companies House could cost the British taxpayer nearly £9m after it was found culpable for the collapse of a generations-old, family-run business.

The High Court ruled that Companies House had been the cause of the collapse of Welsh  engineering firm Taylor & Sons.

The 124-year-old enterprise, which was built up over five generations by the same Welsh family, failed in 2009 after Companies House erroneously recorded the firm as liquidated.

The mistake was made on the official Companies House registrar website, when a business that was liquidated, ‘Taylor and Son’, was incorrectly published as ‘Taylor and Sons’.

Despite the mistake of the extra ‘s’ being noticed and corrected within a few days, the damage to the firm had already been done. This resulted in Taylor and Sons suffering severe financial losses.

With backers pulling out of the company, it was forced to make its 250 workforce redundant and bring the shutters down on the business, which had been in a healthy financial shape.

This led to the former boss of the firm, Philip Davidson-Sebry, suing the government agency for “false publication”.

Despite the online copywriting mistake, Companies House did not admit liability. The High Court was told by the lawyers representing Taylor & Sons that the losses were devastating, and that they occurred as a direct result of the spelling mistake.

The court was also informed that when the liquidation claim was spotted by suppliers and creditors of the firm looking on the Companies House website, services were withdrawn, resulting in its collapse.

The financial arguments in the High Court have been going on for months. However, on January 28th, Mr Justice Edis ruled that Companies House was liable for the collapse of Taylor & Sons and responsible for paying the £8.8m compensation sought by Davidson-Sebry.

The exact level of damages and timeline for payment will be set at a later hearing.

John is every inch the wordsmith and loves a game of Scrabble above all else. With experience writing for newspapers, John’s time at university was spent studying Creative Writing – something which comes across in his love of the pun.

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