Furniture firm profits soared 4,700 PERCENT after Hancock recommended them for a £ 29million PPE contract
Profits at a small family-owned furniture business in Nottingham soared 4,700% after disgraced former Health Secretary Matt Hancock helped it land a £ 29million government contract for the PPE at the height of the pandemic, MailOnline has learned.
Monarch Acoustics Ltd, owned and operated by husband and wife team Stuart and Sophie Hopkin, was awarded the £ 28.8million contract for the supply of surgical gowns after being referred to the ‘VIP path’ accelerated by Mr. Hancock in May 2020.
The effect on the company’s finances has been dramatic, according to its accounts.
Turnover rose from £ 9.8million in 2019 to £ 38million in 2020, and pre-tax profits fell from just £ 267,000 to £ 12.6million over the course of the same period.
By the end of fiscal 2019, the company, which has just 80 employees, only had £ 41,000 in the bank, but a year later that figure had risen to £ 10.2million.
The exclusive list of suppliers was established by the Department of Health and Social Affairs (DHSC) at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic to speed up the supply of PPE.
Monarch Acoustics Ltd, run by Stuart and Sophie Hopkin (pictured) has won a £ 28.8million contract for surgical gowns, though it appears to have no prior experience in manufacturing PPE
The Hopkins house in a leafy village near Nottingham for which the couple paid £ 1.15million in cash without needing a mortgage in March this year is pictured here
It allowed ministers, MPs, lords and senior government officials to recommend companies that could help secure PPE for healthcare workers as the UK struggled to secure supplies in 2020.
According to the National Audit Office (NAO), the firms recommended in this way were considered by the intergovernmental PPE team as “more credible or should be treated with more urgency”.
The companies were not subjected to the usual controls due to the urgency of the situation.
A total of 47 companies were awarded contracts worth a total of £ 4.7bn through the VIP channel, and the companies on the list had a 10 times higher success rate in winning contracts.
Stuart (pictured) and Sophie’s company were recommended for the PPE contract by Matt Hancock via the VIP route at the start of the pandemic to speed up the supply of PPE
Monarch Acoustics chief executive Mr. Hopkin, 39, and his wife are pictured on his Facebook account walking around with their three boys in a variety of costumes, including giraffes and lions.
Ms Hopkin, 35, also posted a photo of herself during her pregnancy above an NHS rainbow symbol and another with two of her children, all wearing rainbow T-shirts sky “All in this together” with government message #Stayathome Protect your community from COVID- 19 ‘banner below.
Boris Johnson’s government has been accused of cronyism after it emerged some companies had access to a high-priority lane that ramped up their bids for personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts.
The government had refused to reveal details of the priority access program – but four Tory MPs and three peers have now been named “referrals” in a list of 47 companies that have won PPE contracts via the VIP channel.
The list of lucrative PPE offers provided by the Good Law Project and published by the Politico website shows that former Health Secretary Mr Hancock helped find work for four separate companies, including Monarch.
Until the pandemic, Monarch – also known as Monarch Educational Furniture – did not appear to have any experience with PPE, judging from its website or Mr. Hopkin’s LinkedIn profile.
In 2016, Monarch Acoustics announced the switch to a new state-of-the-art production facility, opening a factory and warehouse near Nottingham Airport, but the new building was entirely dedicated to educational furniture, rather than ‘to PPE, according to a press release they published
He says, “Monarch Education Furniture is a family business with over 25 years of experience in making good quality furniture. We believe customer service is the number one priority at all times and strive to exceed our customers ‘expectations for quality, value and personalized service.’
On the company’s website, they state: “For more than 30 years, we have carved out a unique place for ourselves in the school furniture industry, with friendly customer service and fantastic delivery times you won’t find anywhere. go elsewhere.
“At our purpose-built 96,000 square foot factory in Nottingham, we manufacture a wide range of stock units and undertake bespoke projects to meet the complex needs of the education, healthcare and public sector markets.
The healthcare component of the business appears to refer to the manufacture and sale of furniture used in hospitals, including, according to the website: “Furniture for nursing stations, wards, bedside, bedside. clinic and drug storage, waiting rooms, surgeries and computers ”.
The nature of Hancock’s relationship with Monarch Acoustics Ltd is unknown
Nowhere on the website is the PPE mentioned, but in the 2020 accounts filed with Companies House, it is noted: “Over the year the company has had the opportunity to diversify, into due to the Covid pandemic, which involved several different contracts using current suppliers. This is the reason for the significant increase in turnover as indicated above. ‘
The Hopkins, who make up two of the three directors of Monarch Acoustics, live in a large, modern detached house in the middle of a leafy village about a 20-minute drive from central Nottingham which they bought for £ 1.1million without the requirement of a mortgage in March.
Ms Hopkin, who is listed as the firm’s general secretary, also at one point ran a photography company called Sophie Marie Photography (SMP).
An online listing on Yellowplace says, “SMP offers fun, Nottingham-based photo ops. Specializing in maternity, newborn, baby and child photography. ‘
Monarch’s third manager, Gary Frost, 60, lives in Leicestershire, according to Companies House.
In 2016, Monarch Acoustics announced the switch to a new ‘state of the art’ production facility, opening a factory and warehouse near Nottingham Airport.
But the new building was entirely devoted to educational furniture, according to a statement they issued.
“Monarch Education Furniture is a family business that has been making furniture for schools for 30 years,” the statement said.
“Our business has grown significantly over the past 10 years and 2014 saw our busiest business year.
“As the market leader in educational storage furniture, we have developed our manufacturing techniques using state-of-the-art machinery and innovative fasteners.
“We have a very strict quality control process in our factory and only ship furniture that we are proud of. We are proud of our know-how and offer a high level of quality. ‘
Stuart Hopkin and Mr. Hancock did not respond to questions from MailOnline.
A spokesperson for Mr Hancock said: “These innuendos of wrongdoing are completely false. During a national emergency, we were grateful for all efforts to get our hands on PPE. All offers were made. processed in accordance with standard process Matt had nothing to do with the award of this or any other PPE contract.
“When Matt was approached with this credible offer, he passed it on to government officials. It was fair and appropriate and what anyone would do under the circumstances.
“Inducing wrongdoing is completely wrong. This work saved lives.
They added that the company’s credentials were “credible” because “they were already supplying the United States.” Due diligence was carried out on this and on all contracts by the officials.
Stuart Hopkin (pictured) and Mr Hancock did not respond to MailOnline questions
A former Conservative Party chairman was also named among several Tories who helped nearly 50 companies win multimillion-dollar PPE contracts during the lockdown.
Lord Feldman, a former tennis partner of ex-PM David Cameron, referred three companies to ministers before they were awarded non-tender contracts using the “VIP fast lane”.
Mr Hancock, who resigned this summer after having a lockdown violation case with an aide, referred three other than Monarch, while the list of 47 companies amassed by the Good Law Project also showed referrals from the ex-Air No. 10 Dominic Cummings, as well as senior ministers including Michael Gove.
Companies were then able to access lucrative contracts for PPE equipment using a much criticized system put in place to speed up the supply of vital equipment as the NHS struggled to cope.
There is no evidence that politicians played a role in awarding contracts to companies that they referred to the procurement process.
Lord Feldman has denied any wrongdoing, insisting he was only passing “credible offers to the heads” of Maxima Markets, SG Recruitment and Skinnydip.
They went on to win contracts worth £ 65million between them. The director of the Good Law Project, Jolyon Maugham, told MailOnline: “The scale of public money that has poured into the pockets of those who can rely on ministers for processing VIP lanes is to cut the breath.
“The VIP route has funneled huge sums of public money into the pockets of those with ties to the Conservatives.
“It also made it more difficult to buy the PPE the NHS needed. Civil servants were besieged by shit vendors with political connections – and that made it much harder to buy the right stuff.