Web forum folds with £830,000 debt

Launched two years ago by Labour MP Derek Wyatt, the forum ran into trouble after it was forced to cancel a three-day conference last November because of lack of interest – leaving it Pounds 500,000 out of pocket.

WIF had planned to charge public sector delegates Pounds 1125 and private sector delegates Pounds 1625 to hear speakers such as e-minister Patricia Hewitt discuss how government and industry could make more use of the web.

Tony Supperstone of liquidator BDO Stoy Hayward has confirmed that it will investigate a creditor’s complaint that it was misled into continuing work for the WIF after receiving false assurances that its bills would be paid.

Supperstone said: ‘We cannot confirm whether there is any substance to the claims that creditors have been misled about WIF’s financial position, although we can confirm that one creditor has put forward a formal complaint on this issue.’

Major creditors include Pounds 250,000 to HSBC, Pounds 190,000 to PR consultancy Firefly, and Pounds 104,000 to Integrated Consultancy Projects, according to a report in the Guardian. ICP director Robert Blaney acted as WIF company secretary and much of the blame for the collapse has been levelled at him, sources told Supperstone said WIF owed Pounds 830,00 in all.

Although the circumstances of the forum’s demise are embarrassing for MP Wyatt, who is also chairman of the parliamentry internet group, he had resigned from WIF’s board last May leaving much of the group’s organisation to Blaney. Blaney has reportedly denied any suggestion that any creditors had been misled.

The World Internet Forum had hoped to use profits from its conference event to build a series of web portals to promote public awareness of issues such as AIDS and water shortage. Other WIF plans included establishing itself as a forum to discuss cross-border legislative issues raised by the internet.

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