Civils sector no longer immune to credit crunch as consultant prepares to shed up to 8% of UK workforce

Engineering giant Arup is preparing to cut up to 400 staff in the UK, the latest sign that the recession has taken hold in the civil engineering sector.

The firm's European board sent an email to staff last Friday announcing the start of a 90-day redundancy consultation that could result in more than 8% of its UK workforce losing their jobs.

In an email to staff, Arup's chief operating officer for the Europe region, Alain Marcetteau, said the firm is in a period of “significant business uncertainty” and the coming months will be “very challenging”.

He said: “Whilst we continue to focus on our cash collection, timely invoicing and cost savings, we must also continue to look after our clients and deliver our projects to the highest standards for which we are known.

“It is essential that we match our resources to our anticipated workload to ensure the health of the business going forward.”

The news will be a blow to those who hoped government investment in infrastructure could protect the bigger civil engineers.

Until recently, Arup was considered to be more secure than some of its rivals. In November, it reported a 69% rise in pre-tax profit and cash reserves of more than £100m, and said it was in a “strong position” to weather the economic crisis.

An Arup spokesperson said: “These are turbulent times in the global economy, and Arup - as with any responsible business - needs to ensure its long-term business health.”

The firm had a second piece of bad news this week after its Flare consortium, with Fluor and EC Harris, was dropped from the shortlist to be Crossrail's delivery partner.