It's Time for an inquiry

The collapse of Time Computers has brought with it a deluge of allegations. An inquiry is needed to dig out the truth

Bust companies breed unhappiness among customers and staff. Feelings run high. But rarely do we witness such vitriol aimed at former directors as we have seen with the demise of UK PC maker Time Computers.

Former employees talk of working in an information vacuum during the company's dying days. This may not be uncommon in such circumstances, but some former Time employees also say they were told to continue accepting orders for goods that they knew would never ship. Many former employees are furious not only at the way they were treated but also at the way they were forced to treat customers. They now see themselves just as much the victim as those customers who have been left with unfilled orders.

Some have gone so far as to set up a petition online calling for an inquiry by the DTI into the past few years of Granville Technology Group. Their calls now have cross-party parliamentary support in the form of Ribble Valley Tory MP Nigal Evans and Burnley Labour MP Kitty Ussher.

Is Time going bust any different to any other liquidation? There are so many allegations from those who claim to be former employees that an inquiry seems necessary, if only to dismiss some of the more lurid accusations. Bad management is no crime, and neither is good management beset by uncontrollable circumstances; an inquiry that shows either to have been the case will answer the claims of impropriety.

Amongst all the anguish and frustration in our Talkback directed at the former directors of Time, Tiny and Granville, there are some voices of moderation. 'Business analyst' Waqas al-Haq has a point when he says the trading of speculation by former staff will merely stoke the fires of nervousness with suppliers and may scupper any rescue package. But those former staff and customers he refers to are unlikely to care about any such package, given that they are unlikely to benefit. Customers with unfulfilled orders generally sit alongside laid-off (and uncompensated) staff at the bottom of the list of creditors. They know this; hence the deluge of speculations and allegations that will continue until the situation has been fully investigated.

'Business manager' Mark Szachno rightly points out in his Talkback that it is very sad to see this happen to such an important company, and the impact to the local community up in Burnley will be huge. If there is no rescue package then some of the companies in the UK that have supplied Time could be badly affected. As Szachno says, another blow to the UK PC market.

It is essential that clarity returns to the muddle and mess so that confidence can grow again. An inquiry is absolutely necessary.