Business barometer Latest figures leave no doubt about the role of public sector in industry’s survival

Higgins was the unusual name at the top of the leader board in February. The social housing specialist topped a list dominated by the public sector, thanks to its £174m PFI refurbishment deal with Swan Housing Group in the London borough of Newham.

Compared with last February’s figures, the total value of work won by the top 30 contractors fell by more than a quarter from £1.87bn to £1.38bn. The number of deals only fell by six to 306.

Carillion finished in second spot with 18 deals together worth £151m, a large chunk of which came from the education sector. Its wins included the £26.3m Bulwell academy in Nottingham and the £23.7m New Line Learning Academy in Kent. No wonder it singled out the UK education market as a particularly fruitful sector in its annual results last week.

Wates also did well in the education sector: it finished in third place, thanks largely to four Building Schools for the Future wins in Luton that totalled £102.3m. Balfour Beatty and Kier made up the top five. Balfour picked up the £38.1m Liberty Village Phase 5 deal for Defence Estates.

The UK’s largest contractor, which broke into the FTSE 100 in January, last week reported a turnover of £9.5bn and kept its place at the top of the rolling annual leader board.

Its total wins of £3.9bn in the past 12 months dwarfed Laing O’Rourke’s haul of £2.5bn. And, with an order book of £12.8bn at the end of 2008, it will take some dislodging from its present position.

The top 10 in February was finished off with Laing O’Rourke, Willmott Dixon, Leadbitter, Galliford Try and BAM Construct. Willmott Dixon kept up the education theme with three school deals that included a £20.5m secondary school in Middlesbrough and a £16.8m deal for a special needs school in Windsor & Maidenhead.

Galliford Try’s £69.1m of wins included a £44.9m prison deal in Bridgend, Wales.