A LANCASHIRE firm is facing calls for an investigation after workers were said to have been left with up to £170,000 in unpaid wages.

The call was made by the Unite union, which alleges that Preston-based Lunar Automotive, formerly Lunar Caravans, claimed money from the taxpayer funded job retention scheme last year but has not passed any of this on to the company’s 45-strong workforce, currently on furlough and who have not been paid since August last year.

Owner Nicholas Marks has already faced scrutiny after former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith claimed that the businessman had withheld wages, totalling around £200,000, from disabled employees of social enterprise Clarity Products, which he owns.

Unite regional officer Dave Kennedy said: “We are calling for HMRC and The Pensions Regulator to conduct urgent investigations into the affairs of Nicholas Marks.

“Our members at Lunar Automotive are owed up to £170,000 in unpaid wages, they have not been paid for five months.

“We are asking HMRC and TPR to investigate the non-payment of JRS wages, plus the whereabouts of our members’ pension contributions from August 2019 to the present day which appear to have disappeared into thin air.

“We understand that money was received under the job retention scheme, but not passed onto the workforce.

“If these allegations are true, it is a very a serious matter as it involves cash from the hard-pressed taxpayer.

“It also has caused deep distress to our members worried about their jobs and facing severe financial hardship as they are currently due five months’ back pay.

“Some of them have been forced to turn to local food banks to put food on their families’ tables.”

Mr Marks first bough the Preston company after it went into went into administration in 2019, changing its name from Lunar Caravans to Lunar Automotive and moving its base from Lostock Hall to the former GEC building in Strand Road, Preston.

Preston MP Mark Hendrick has already written to chancellor Rishi Sunak and to HMRC supporting the call for an investigation, while Unite believes a more widespread investigation into Mr Marks’ practices is necessary.

Mr Kennedy said: “We need to join up the dots of Mr Marks’ business activities, given that Iain Duncan Smith has raised separate concerns to MPs about a social enterprise, Clarity Products which he is also involved with.

“Serious questions need to be asked about Mr Marks’ fitness to hold company directorships.”

Lunar Automotive has been approached for comment.