Carlisle broker Pattinson Edwards has gone bust, bitterly blaming rival Cumbrian broker Dixon & Watt for poaching £2m of premiums over the past few weeks.

Pattinson Edwards' director and company secretary, Paul Wensley, told the Carlisle News & Star in a terse statement: “Briefly, the reason leading up to this is that key employees decided to leave the company and move to Dixon & Watt.”

Wensley said that in under three months four members of staff, including former director and shareholder Colin Ratcliffe, had moved to Dixon & Watt, taking more than £2m in premium income with them.

But Jon Watt, managing director of Penrith-based Dixon & Watt hit back at the claims. He said his company had been approached by staff at Pattinson Edwards who had left or were planning to leave.

The first employee to leave Pattinson Edwards was its office manager, Ian Gray, who was made redundant. He was followed by Ratcliffe, Mark Daly and Howard Thomas.

Watt said: “We did not poach any business. Four members of staff left their offices due to management difficulties within Pattinson Edwards.”

Watt conceded that business had followed the staff but denied there had been a systematic attempt to poach business.

But staff at the Penrith brokers were said to have been working around the clock getting mandates signed transferring clients from Pattinson Edwards to Dixon & Watt.

Pattinson Edwards was founded in 1972 and sold to Wensley and Ratcliffe in 1997.