In Blighty this week, the propaganda machine turns defeat into victory, the government frets about who’s listening in and some of our old friends are (temporarily) missing in action

Ms Kettle? It’s Mr Pot on the phone …

Richard Steer’s column in Building last November, in which he complained about QS firms risking the profitability of the sector by undercutting fee levels has whipped up a perfect storm of emails. However, there seems to be a feeling that Steer got the target of his rebuke slightly wrong.

Off the record, QSs are lining up to complain to me that the one firm that keeps undercutting them with crazy prices is the company Steer runs – Gleeds. One enraged correspondent in particular said he’d priced a job on which Gleeds’ proposed fee was a quarter of his. Those in glass houses, eh?

Careless talk

The paranoia in the communities department about policy leaks has reached new levels. The automated voicemail for staff now warns callers: “When leaving a message, please be sure not to leave anything sensitive.” Presumably this is because of a fear of hackers or other colleagues listening in, or of Freedom of Information requests for data. In the current pre-election phoney war, it’s something of a relief to hear that civil servants are still engaged in anything interesting enough to be regarded as sensitive.

Battle of the builders

Ever wondered what would happen if an architect were pitted against a concrete contractor on the rugby pitch? Well, now is not your chance to find out. Concrete specialists Byrne Brothers are organising a charity rugby match but, thankfully perhaps, they’ve called in professionals to take part. Former English and Irish rugby internationals will go head to head at Twickenham on 26 February. The England team includes Martin Corry as captain and England’s most-capped player, Jason Leonard. The proceeds will go to charities that support disabled rugby players. Tickets are on sale at: and

Can you help?

Can you help?

Seasoned Building readers may recall our 40 under 40 project 10 years ago, where we shone our big media spotlight on up and coming youngsters. We’re now revisiting all those in the feature but a few are proving elusive to track down. If you are one of these people, or know of their whereabouts, please let us know. They are (clockwise from top left): Steve Smith, last seen at Northcroft in 2000, Jeff Kirby (Urban Research Laboratory), Suzie Dickens (Gleeson City Living), Ciron Edwards (Fluid Design), Ian Hedges (Amec), Tina Smith (Westbury Homes), Joe McNulty (Integra) and Chris Nasah (Knack Design). Whether they are still in construction or performing with lions in a circus, we want to talk to them (particularly if they really are on the lion circuit). Email with any news...

Always look on the bright side

Financial statements are understandably prone to putting a positive spin on bad news but one that caught my eye last week took things to a whole new level. Aukett Fitzroy Robinson had a pretty rough 2009, with turnover falling by a third. Don’t be too quick to rush to judgment, though. If you read the statement, you will discover that the architect is actually “focusing on re-basing the business at a new, lower, revenue level”. How encouraging to see the firm so focused.

Antilles heel

The RICS’ plans to pull out of the Construction Industry Council, allow QSs without degrees to become chartered and before that, hikes in membership fees, have sowed discontent around the world, it seems. Now, Ian Rollitt, a RICS steering committee member who is based in Barbados has written to RICS chief executive Louis Armstrong to complain about the “lack of regulation and direction of RICS Americas and the slow progress being made in establishing RICS Caribbean”.