A QS enjoys the profit-boosting side effects of promotions, while April’s fools suffer at the hands of two Canadian artists and a blackberry

A balance sheet shuffle

The recent results posted by consultant EC Harris and reported in our pages (March 11, page 20) have drawn mutterings from rival firms. The firm was in upbeat form after seeing pre-tax profits double, declaring its move to LLP an unqualified success. But rivals are saying the tasty profits are largely due to the decision to promote about 60 staff to partner status. This means their salaries are no longer a cost, and hence profits are bumped up. If it’s true, the EC Harris brick-counters are to be congratulated on their skills in bean-juggling.

Star quality

A competition of astounding brilliance run by the Daily Star has come to my attention. In a bid to get industry firms to place ads for a construction feature, my tabloid friends are offering to send a Page 3 girl to the site belonging to the winners of a prize draw. Not quite sure that’s what’s meant by “women in construction”…

Blackberry fool

I hear the mania for those new-fangled contraptions called Blackberries has finally filtered through to construction. Word reaches me that QS and project manager Davis Langdon is handing out said contraptions to its staff, while Ken Shuttleworth, founder of architect Make, has become hooked on the device. But some bosses have yet to be fully clued up to the phone-cum-emailer device. One, who I shall decline to name, was recently overheard asking a colleague: “Do you have one of those Burberries yet?”

Humbled Abode

MP in clear-expression-of-views shock … and in the run-up to an election, too. At the launch of the RIBA political manifesto at Portcullis House in Westminster last week, Clive Betts, Labour MP for Sheffield Attercliffe, made the most down-to-earth architectural observation of the whole event. Flicking through the manifesto, Betts picked out a photograph of Abode at New Hall in Harlow, the speculative housing development designed by Proctor Matthews and beloved by all at the RIBA and CABE. Referring to the finicky detailing and mix of materials, he sighed: “In 20 years’ time, how tacky this will look.”

Luvvly Jubbly Jarvis

It seems that the Jamie Oliver effect has trickled all the way down to Jarvis’ operation in rural Herefordshire, where the beleaguered services group supplies meals for 40 schools. New menus, featuring healthy, locally sourced food, have been introduced, to the delight of pupils and parents across the county. Whatever next? Pukka PFIs? Better that, we think, than Naked Contractors.

Housebuilders come home

Good to see construction minister Nigel Griffiths turning up unannounced at the 10th anniversary of the CSCS card last week. He gave a sensible speech praising the card, and left industry leaders George Brumwell and Keith Clarke to fill in the details. Brumwell was quick to deliver a backhanded compliment to housebuilders.

“They have realised they are part of the construction industry, not just developers with glossy brochures,” he quipped.

Wanted: Fairy godmother

Is there a curse on senior figures at the Major Contractors Group and Construction Confederation? First John Gains, until recently the president of the CC, sees Mowlem – where he was chief executive until last year – suffer contractual woes and a fall in profits. Now Dermot Gleeson, the outgoing chairman of the MCG, flogs off his loss-making building division after some horror contracts. Where could the curse strike next?

April fool with flair
April fool with flair
A couple of Canadian artists have come up with a cunning April Fool’s Day wheeze. They set up an architectural contest to design the “Manchester Letherium”, a museum for preserving artefacts that are no longer wanted by other museums. The whole concept is a hoax, right down to the phoney Manchester Letherium Corporation. Manchester-based Rebecca Duclos and David Ross launched the competition to give architects a chance to design without such petty constraints as budgets and planners. The winning design, and 14 of the best entrants, will be on display at Manchester’s Cornerhouse until 21 May.