Business barometer Family firm is clear winner after not figuring at all in October table

Sir Robert McAlpine was strangely absent from the barometer in October. Now it has returned and no mistake: straight in at number one with two contracts worth a total of £331m. This also propelled it into the top 10 earners for the year, although Balfour Beatty remained at the top, maintaining its £600m lead over Kier. Kier has won £2.4bn of work in the past 12 months.

November also proved a good month for Laing O’Rourke, another privately-owned contractor, which moved up 16 places in the monthly table to number five, thanks to £137m of mostly commercial contracts.

The continuing turmoil on the global credit markets may have affected the total amount of work won: November’s £2.1bn was the second lowest of the year so far; only August was lower. By contrast, in the peak months of February and March, more than £3bn of contracts were awarded.

The year was also marked by the rise of a number of large regional contractors, such as Leadbitter. Whether that will continue into next year remains to be seen, as the market starts to tighten. The latest medium-sized firm to get into the top 10 is Ardmore, an Enfield-based firm that won a £70m housing contract. Winvic Construction, which is based in Northampton, also entered the top 20 as a result of winning two industrial contracts worth a total of £32.5m.

And Totty Building made a welcome return to the November top 50 at 38 on the strength of three contracts worth £5.3m split between the public and private sector.

In the architects table, the big two commercial practices of Building Design Partnership and Broadway Malyan dominated once again, with remarkably similar hauls to October. The remainder stayed fairly static, although Aedas moved from eighth to fourth and John McAslan slipped from fourth to 10th.

The clients table was marked by the disappearance of British Nuclear Fuels, the leading client in October, which has evidently completed its immediate procurement work.