For many of you, 2010 has been a year of little comfort and even less joy
We were trapped in limbo - real decisions deferred until a new government was elected … until the Comprehensive Spending Review came out. As the industry limps towards 2011, it’s finally becoming clear where we stand - and where we are, and where we may be going.
The coalition government ushered in new people, policies and promises, though it has taken until this final quarter for the realities of the new political, economic and regulatory scene to produce a clear set of villains for 2010 (see pages 30-37). But while it’s unlikely that George Osborne or Michael Gove will feature on your Christmas card list after their savage public sector cuts, it’s going to be worth keeping in touch with communities secretary Eric Pickles, if only to look for clues about the implications of the localism agenda and how it is aligned to regional cuts and new-found local authority autonomy (see page 12).
It has taken until the final quarter to identify a set of villains of the year. It’s unlikely that George Osborne or Michael Gove will feature on your Christmas card list
Whereas in Whitehall civil servants played “Find the cuts”, down the road the City was kept busy tracking major structural changes in an industry that has seen companies move together (via mergers and acquisitions) as well as abroad. Connaught was the first to show signs of distress, but it was Rok which took everyone by surprise when it collapsed, revealing dangerously shallow foundations. A company which blazed a fierce acquisition trail off the back of a highly leveraged financial position, Rok has become the case study that epitomises the recession’s impact on construction and highlights the importance of financial risk management and control. We remember the fallen on page 33.
Consultants have not been immune, either - struggling to survive in a climate of increased internationalisation of client bases, falling fees and, of course, cost cutting. Many never thought they’d see the day the Davis Langdon dynasty would disappear, taking the name of its persuasive suitor, US giant Aecom. And URS and Scott Wilson’s mega-deal confirmed the hunch that, in difficult times, one may be better than two. Sadly, some firms have not found a way out - listed architect Archial slipped very publicly into administration this year, and you only have to glance at Mouchel this week to see that there is more change to come (page 16).
So where now? There are some clear destinations before us. Carbon-cutting has snuck up the legislative agenda and onto the priority list for procurement like never before. Infrastructure is thriving. And while things are so bad at home, emerging markets look ever more tempting. Of course, there will be much you’ll want to forget about 2010 - “grim” doesn’t begin to describe it - but there are some (fragile) signs that we can look forward to a brighter 2011, and beyond. As for living happily ever after, though - forget it.
And now for some comic relief
Finally, for a slice of festive cheer, see pages 38-43 for a behind-the-scenes look at Building’s charity single cover version of eighties classic We Built this City, originally sung by Starship. A big thank you to Hanif Kara, Jonathan Goring, Mark Whitby, Sadie Morgan, Linda Morey Smith and Building’s very own Emily Wright for forming Make That and so far raising over £3,000 for Over the Wall and Maggie’s Centres charities. The music video is now available to download on building.co.uk/makethat and you can buy the single (all proceeds to the charities). Building will back on 7 January but you can access breaking news on building.co.uk. Thank you for your ongoing support and wishing you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
Tom Broughton, brand director