I’m full of mixed emotions this month as I write the last ever leader comment in Electrical & Mechanical Contractor. There is sadness, of course, that the magazine is closing. Yet there is pleasure in the fact that, overall, I’d say the industry is in better shape than when I became editor 12 years ago. In more than a decade in the role, I’ve been lucky enough to witness momentous changes in the way that electrical contractors, and the wider m&e community, go about delivering projects for clients

The whole change agenda, driven by the reports into the construction sector by Latham and Egan, has seen giant strides taken in terms of performance, productivity, even profits. Clients had every right to expect better from one of the UK’s biggest industries, and initiatives such as partnering have no doubt brought process improvements. The knock-on effect is that the m&e sector is now able to play a bigger part in influencing clients at the very earliest stage of a project, when key sustainability and buildability issues can be brought to the table.

Some things have not improved, however, and there are many issues for m&e contractors that are as relevant today as they were when I first came to the magazine. The downturn has highlighted the fact that, despite the Construction Act 1996, payment issues are still the biggest bugbear for contractors.

The ECA, through the auspices of umbrella lobby body SEC Group, are still tirelessly striving to improve the lot of the subcontractor after all these years. It is lobbying hard on necessary amendments to the Act and strives to take forward initiatives such as project bank accounts that would do so much to help the subcontractor when it comes to getting paid on time.

This month’s magazine reflects those two extremes. We have articles about how m&e big boy NG Bailey has shaped itself to win work in the healthcare sector and examples of innovation in the electrical equipment sector that is helping to wipe out superbugs such as MRSA. Yet we also have two features on withholding payment and eradicating cashflow problems.

The most inspiring article has to be our report on Richard Sagar, our very own WorldSkills gold medal-winning electrician. If anyone exemplifies that the industry is in good shape, it’s him.