A row looked set to break out last night between MG Rover parent company Phoenix Venture Holdings and Ford.

The dispute centres on #23 million taken out of a special bank account set up to underwrite production of an engine for the Land Rover Freelander.

Ford withdrew the money from a collateral account when Longbridge engine producer Powertrain went into administration along with MG Rover last April.

It was intended to ensure the continued supply of the KV6 petrol engine for Freelander in the event of Powertrain going bust and there is no dispute that Ford was entitled to the money.

But PVH directors now argue that if Ford cannot show that the money was in fact spent on securing a fresh supply of engines it should be repaid and put into the trust fund set up for former Long-bridge workers and their families.

Details of the collateral account are expected to emerge when PVH's accounts for the year to December 31, 2004 - the last full year of operations before MG Rover and Powertrain went into administration last April - are finally lodged at Companies House later this week.

T he unconsolidated accounts - they exclude the subsidiary manufacturing companies now in administration - are expected to show that the company made a loss of #40.9 million in 2004 compared with a profit of #18 million the year before.

Most of the deficit is made up of provisions for potential liabilities and inter-company debts.

The accounts, which are believed to be heavily qualified by PVH auditors Deloitte, are also expected to show that PVH had net funds of about #24 million.

But #23 million of that is accounted for by the KV6 collateral account to which PVH did not have access even though it had put up the money.

PVH's argument, The Birmingham Post learnt last night, is that when Powertrain collapsed, Land Rover had a stockpile of 6,000 of the engines and the Freelander model they powered was on run out.

"If the money was not in fact used for the purpose for which it was intended we believe it should be repaid for the benefit of the Longbridge trust fund," a PVH spokesman said.

"We are looking at the legal implication of this, but we think the moral implication is clear and we expect to be writing to Ford."

A spokesman for Ford's UK-based Premier Automotive Group, which includes Land Rover, said the loss of the KV6 petrol engine from Powertrain had had a "dramatic" effect on the Lode Lane factory.

"We do not think we are in any way obliged to account for this money," he added.

The long-delayed PVH accounts will also show that six directors - the "Phoenix Four" of John Towers, John Edwards, Nick Stephenson and Peter Beale, plus former MG Rover chief executive Kevin Howe and non-executive Nigel Petrie - were paid a total of #1.2 million in 2004.

The highest paid director, believed to be Mr Edwards, the former Rover dealer from Stratford-upon-Avon who ran Longbridge's sales and marketing operations, received #259,000.

But only #210,000 was paid i nto the controversial #16 million special fund set up to provide the Phoenix Four plus about 20 senior MG Rover managers with pensions.

Mr Towers, Mr Edwards, Mr Stevenson and Mr Beale have continued to work at PVH without pay.

They are concentrating on maximising the company's assets for eventual payment into the Longbridge trust fund as well as assisting Long-bridge's new owner, Nanjing Automobile, to get production going again at the 100 year-old site.