This working week, you may be asked to eat some smoked salmon, read thousands of pages on HS2, star in a Chinese sitcom, or listen to deafening drilling while trying to write your diary column
One of my eagle-eyed hacks spotted a building firm among the list of businesses highlighted by the taxman last week for dodging their dues. Gatemain Contractors Ltd of Holly Road in Rochester, received publicity after appearing on a list of “deliberate tax defaulters” published by HMRC. This revealed that the firm had been forced to pay £35,000 worth of penalties after defaulting on almost £60,000 worth of tax. While publicising these nefarious shirkers may have an impact on deterring would-be tax evaders, it’s questionable what effect being named and shamed will have on Gatemain, given it was wound up in December.
Old habits die hard
Just how long has blacklisting been going on? I was intrigued to read claims in a University of Westminster-produced pamphlet on construction that the practice took place during the building of the City of London’s famous Barbican complex in the late sixites after serious industrial strife there. But perhaps this historical research is just scratching the surface. A witness appearing before the House of Commons’ Scottish Affairs Committee last month claimed blacklisting was “as old as the pyramids”. How on earth will the pharaohs salvage their hard-won reputation for fair treatment of workers now?
Downturn - what downturn? While out for lunch last week, one of my hacks was told by developer-contractor United House’s chief executive Jeff Adams of a major development in on-site catering. Adams has a habit of visiting one of his sites every couple of weeks and was surprised on a 7am visit to a development in Cheam, south London, to find smoked salmon on the menu. Whatever happened to the good old bacon butty?
Looks good on paper
I was amused to learn this week that the environmental statement justifying the green credentials of High Speed 2 will run to tens of thousands of pages - equivalent to a small forest of trees given that paper copies will have to be submitted to parliament as part of the Hybrid Bill process. I’ll be curious to find out if this is longer or shorter than the forthcoming judicial review decision on whether the project will actually go ahead - judges are not known for their brevity, after all. If common sense doesn’t prevail we could end up with a HS2 paper trail as long as the proposed route.
China, we’re told, is a land of plenty for UK construction professionals. But one Mandarin language graduate, Richard Heathcote, who worked with Chinese clients for architecture practice Foster + Partners, has been tempted by a rather different calling. Heathcote has quit his job as Fosters’ marketing co-ordinator for the country to star in a Chinese TV sitcom, Ciao Britain. Heathcote explains: “My character Steve is a Chinese-speaking British guy in his 20s who the other Chinese housemates make fun of.” He doesn’t mind being the butt of the programme’s jokes, though: “I feel very at home with the Chinese sense of humour, which is different to British humour” he told the Metro. Best not forget how to get by in the UK, though, as the series will partly be filmed in Greenwich.
Let’s hear it for Building
This column has noted the frenzy of non-activity at the building site across the road from Building’s office, the site of St George’s planned 50-storey One Blackfriars tower, since it was acquired by the Berkeley subsidiary 18 months ago. In the first few months work was limited to putting up elaborate hoardings, planting topiary and then returning to straighten lopsided trees. But, with planning secured late last year, work has now begun in earnest. This month a large three-storey-tall piling rig began noisily drilling on site. We’re happy to see work progressing, but we may need to get some ear plugs. And remember, send any juicy industry gossip to firstname.lastname@example.org.