Business barometer: Kier tops work table again, but with vastly reduced value

Kier emerged at the top of a diminishing heap of work in September, helped by a brace of schools projects valued at more than £40m. This time last year Kier, also topped the table, but then it had £665m worth of contracts. Last month it took only £160m to come first.

Huge cuts in public sector budgets are expected in next week’s Comprehensive Spending Review, but government largesse continued to dominate the market last month, accounting for almost two-thirds of the total spend.

Laing O’Rourke’s number two place was almost entirely the result of a £120m contract for a cancer treatment centre for Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London as part of a consortium that also includes Anshen Allen and Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners. Laing O’Rourke failed to pick up a single commercial project in September, emphasising the fast-shrinking role of the state in keeping the industry afloat.

Britain’s besieged schools continued to spread what is left of their riches among the rest of the country’s contractors. Wates, Costain, Bam, Interserve and Vinci were among those that benefited from about £250m of education projects.

A number of firms also picked up social housing schemes, including Durkan, which was catapulted into 13th place on the back of £50m worth of housing jobs.

Slim pickings perhaps, but better than none. And with little sign of a strong pick-up in the private sector, fears persist that the government will pull the plug on these types of schemes, and with it the industry’s recovery prospects, in Wednesday’s spending review.

Kier also emerged at the top of the table when civils work was taken into account - in fact the same top four earners dominated both tables. Spending on energy and transport infrastructure is expected to be increased in the review, but this may be paid for by a decrease in construction spending elsewhere.

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