Former Wilko bosses will be asked about the retail chain's failings

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MPs will ask former Wilko bosses about the high street retail chain’s failings

Former Wilko bosses are to be grilled by MPs over how the retail chain collapsed and to explain the shortfall in its pension fund.

Lisa Wilkinson, granddaughter of Wilko founder James Kemsey Wilkinson and former chair of the retailer, is among those to be questioned by the Commons’ Business and Trade Committee next Tuesday.

She has been summoned along with former Wilko CEO Mark Jackson.

MPs will question former Wilko bosses about collapse

Andrew Walton, UK head of audit at Ernst & Young – which signed off Wilko’s accounts since 2020 – and Victoria Venning, partner at the auditing firm, have also been called to give oral evidence.

Wilko fell into administration in August, leading to the loss of about 12,000 jobs, the closure of all 400 of the chain’s stores and a £50m shortfall in its pension fund.

MPs said on Thursday they wanted to question “the Wilkinson family’s justification for taking millions of pounds in dividends out of the firm” despite it being “heavily indebted”.

The Wilkinson family received £9m in dividends since 2019, according to administrators PwC.

Lisa Wilkinson and WIlko dividends

A spokeswoman for Ernst & Young said: “We welcome the opportunity to play an active and constructive role in the Business and Trade select committee inquiry on the collapse of Wilko.”

Speaking to the Sunday Times in August, Lisa Wilkinson said the dividends taken out “really wouldn’t have made a difference” to the business’s fate.

“Hindsight is a great bedfellow and I like to think we did all the things we should do when we paid dividends,” she said. “The board checked that we’d got profits or reserved profits, there was sufficient cash, we went through the right governance, the auditors checked it off.”