Regrettably, Nedam this week declined to shed any light on events, leaving many questions unanswered. Were the subcontractors deliberately misled about Ballast's financial position – or Nedam's true intentions? Or did the UK subsidiary simply overstate the support it was receiving from Holland. One regional director wrote to subcontractors: "The parent company is investing significant financial resources to ensure the UK business meets its obligations to you." If only.
For all their ire, the specialists may conclude that they would simply be throwing good money after bad by chasing Nedam – it will be a hard case to prove. From the point of view of natural justice, though, it would be good to see a public examination of the facts. What really did happen in September and October? And what became of the idea of selling all or part of the UK operation, a constant rumour over the summer? That speculation looked unfounded when Nedam announced that it was not only backing Ballast, but restructuring it as well.
Whether m'learned friends are instructed, or the tale effectively ends at the creditors' meeting on 16 December, consequences will follow from this baffling affair. First, specialists will be reminded to take great care about whose contracts they accept – especially if the main contractor is a subsidiary of a foreign parent with no stake in the UK market. Second, it will add weight to Rudi Klein's campaign against retentions. And, third, clarity will be needed about the status of PPP consortiums. Ballast's Scottish subcontractors are insisting that its private finance partners honour £5m of debts. After months of misery, some good may yet come of this.
A word from our cover starHello, I’m Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, and welcome to Changing Roofs, the brand new series for housebuilders that puts the show back into showrooms and the pizzazz into portfolios. We’re kicking out the kitsch in standard house types, and marginalising the magnolia. Okay, let’s meet our first contestant: that charming family builder David Wilson from Leicester. His homes are thoroughly nice and respectable. Very Midlands. But, you know, there’s something missing here. No, not cerise walls with stencilled images of winged toddlers, or mdf pillasters. What we can do for David is something more holistic – a fusion of design and decor, a melding of the old and the new. Poundbury meets Peterborough. But what will it look like, you ask? Ah, well, close your eyes, and open your minds. And promise you won’t strip it all out again once I’ve gone.
Adrian Barrick, editor