Business barometer: £1.1bn schools win takes contractor to top spot, as council work dominates lists

One word stands out when you read down the list of clients awarding work in July: council.

It will come as no surprise, but the commercial sector only accounted for 7% of the overall £2.5bn work won last month.

Laing O’Rourke topped the leader board with a £1.1bn Building Schools for the Future win from Barnsley council that obliterated the opposition. Its other big wins were in the health sector and included a £20m deal for Somerset primary care trust and a £100m contract for West Cumberland hospital.

So two years after the term “credit crunch” first entered popular vocabulary, the public sector is very much keeping the industry ticking. How long it will last and whether the private sector will have picked up by the time government work declines are separate matters.

It’s a question that has been exercising Morgan Sindall executive chairman John Morgan, among others. He believes it is the big unknown looming over the industry.

His company finished in second spot in July with 59 wins that included a £37.3m school in Liverpool and a £71.3m Airbus factory in Flintshire.

Carillion finished in third spot with deals that included the £98.7m Low Moss prison in Scotland.

The gap between Laing O’Rourke and the rest is narrower when infrastructure work is included. Costain finished in second spot and continued its recent run of healthy contract wins with a £170m water deal and a £20m contract for the North Terminal interchange at Gatwick airport.

Wates finished in fourth place in the main list thanks to two housing wins for two different councils (there’s that word again). They were a £45m job in Woking and a £17.5m contract in Birmingham.

Balfour Beatty pulled even further ahead in the annual rolling leader board by finishing in fifth spot in July with a total haul of 55 wins worth £93.1m. Skanska is in second place over the last year – largely thanks to the £2.5bn M25 widening deal. New chief executive Mats Williamson will hope it’s a sign of things to come.