Doubt about Brexit causing uncertainty, says John McManus as he announces increased profits

The chief executive of BDP has said he wants a decision on whether the UK stays in the EU or votes to leave as soon as possible.

The firm – the UK’s biggest practice after Foster & Partners – carries out 25% of its work outside the UK and last year saw its staff levels increase by 100 to 832 as workloads home and abroad rose.

But John McManus, who celebrates 30 years with the business today, said UK plc wanted the government to get rid of the uncertainty about the timing of a referendum quickly.

“I would like to remove that doubt sooner rather than later,” he said. “We have a stronghold in Europe in places like the Netherlands and Ireland. [A vote to leave] is the great imponderable.” Among the overseas schemes it is working on is a huge children’s hospital in Dublin (pictured) which goes into planners this summer.

BDP has changed its accounting period, switching from an 18 month period ending July to a 12 month period ending December.

Turnover for the year ending December 2014 was up 9% to £65 million on a like-for-like basis with operating profit up 125% to £2.1 million. “2014 was a year of consolidation. The recession had ended and we were able to plan strategically for growth.”

But fee levels continue to be squeezed, he said. “Fees dropped and they’re better now but they never seem to have got back to where they once were.”

McManus said public sector work had been hit by an anticipated hung Parliament and said the outright victory achieved by the Tories had still to see workloads come back.

But there was better news elsewhere with retail, offices and higher education work all performing strongly. He said that schools work had also remained strong. The firm is also targeting more work in the science and research sector and has just completed a technology and innovation centre in Glasgow for Strathclyde University.

London, Glasgow and Bristol were all performing well, he said but added: “China growth is good but it has fallen off in recent years.”