Architect lost some 160 jobs in 12 months to June despite doubling its pre-tax profit

The UK’s largest architect reduced its workforce by more than a tenth last year as the recession bit into orders. The firm said its payroll, including temporary employees, reduced
by about 13% over the 12 months to 30 June, from about 1,225 to 1,065, as turnover fell 5%.

Results to be filed at Companies House on Monday will show that pre-tax profit more than doubled to £6.7m on turnover down to £96.3m from £101.8m.

Peter Drummond, BDP’s chief executive, said the firm’s performance had been boosted by a number of large projects that were near enough to completion to allow their profit to be claimed.

The decline in staff numbers was a response to a fall in current workload. About half of the reductions have come from redundancies, the rest from not replacing staff who leave or students who return to university.

Drummond said staff in BDP’s Dublin and Belfast offices had been hit particularly hard: the payroll there reduced from 80 to 40-50 in the past year.

He said: “It’s been a difficult time in Ireland. But given the circumstances overall, recording a turnover fall of 5% is creditable; we thought it might dip a little bit more.”

However, directors’ salaries recovered from their 9% fall in 2009, and Drummond said there had been no cuts in staff pay in 2010.

He said it was likely turnover would fall a further 5% next year, and said he was sceptical of the construction growth figures reported by the government this week. “It doesn’t feel like we had 4% growth in the past quarter,” he said. “If we manage to retain turnover at current levels in 2011 I’ll be very pleased.”

BDP continued its international growth over the last year, opening offices in New Delhi and Abu Dhabi.

In addition, Drummond said, BDP is opening an office in China, likely to be 25-30 strong.

2010 figures

Pre-tax profit: £6.8m (£3.34m 2009)
Turnover: £96.3m (£101.8m)
Architects: 587 (670)
Total staff: 1,065 (1,225)
Average director’s pay: £220,039 (£198,068)