The Merry Month: Are you watching your figure?

Robert Merry suggests you try to win £3,500 in the Art of Building photography competition - see

Robert Merry is an independent stone consultant. He ran his own company for 17 years, after which he was an independent project manager. He is also an expert witness in disputes.

Watching your figure after the seasonal festivities? Here’s a few more figures to digest for 2019.

305m high The proposed height of the new Foster & Partners Tulip Tower, which will be London’s tallest tower – if it gets built.

There are already 425,000 high rise tower blocks in the UK. The skyline of London is a mass of tall buildings already and I counted 23 tower cranes at Battersea Power Station development the last time I passed it in December.

Do we need more tower blocks to fill the sky and cut out the light? And what about the impact on living standards in isolated flats? Will Londoners be living in the new tower or will it consist of empty investments?

148 million of your British pounds That’s the predicted total cost of the collapse of the main contractor Carillion last year. Many lessons to learn here for Government procurement and the industry as a whole.

13,945 jobs saved Thanks to the transference of 278 Carillion contracts to new providers. Every cloud… unless of course you were one of the 2,787 who lost their job as a direct result of the collapse.

103 days That’s the average payment period from Brown & Mason, reported to be the UK’s slowest paying main contractor.

30 day invoice payment periods MPs in the Business, Enterprise & Industrial Strategy Commons Select Committee called for 30-day statutory payment periods for construction. There is a commonly held belief among some that MPs are out of touch with the people they serve. The ‘horse’ of late payment has long since ‘bolted’ and the stable door is swinging on rusty hinges. However, making 30-day payments statutory would be revolutionary for construction. We wait to see if there is anything of real substance behind the MPs’ call for legislation.

£10billion pounds-worth of building materials That’s the contribution of construction materials, including stone, to the £350billion-worth of goods bought by the UK from EU countries. The question is: what happens after the March Brexit, presuming there is a March Brexit. Can we replace £10billion pounds worth of goods from suppliers outside the EU? Ones that don’t already have trade deals with the EU? Or do we carry on buying from the EU? Is this an opportunity for the UK quarry industry to promote UK stone?

25% lower pay for women in the construction industry The worst offender was Balfour Beatty with a 33% pay gap and the best Taylor Wimpey, where women were paid on average 2% more per hour than men.

2.3million paid construction workers in the UK, but only 13% of them women Not only is the pay gap unacceptable, our male dominated industry is missing out on a valuable resource. How many women do you employ in your organisation? What is your pay gap? Is it acceptable?

24% fall in apprenticeship starts in 2017/18 This follows the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in May 2017. The Government has published a briefing paper that explains the levy – briefly. It says: “All UK employers with a pay bill of over £3million per year pay the apprenticeship levy. The levy is set at 0.5% of the value of the employer’s wages bill, minus an apprenticeship levy allowance of £15,000 per financial year. The funds generated by the levy have to be spent on apprenticeship training costs. The government tops up the funds paid by the employer by 10%.” With the added effects of Brexit on the retention of European workers, the construction industry may be short of a few people.

£1billion pounds over budget Also a year late. The pain of Crossrail may become a common ailment in construction in the coming months.

If all the above hasn’t made you loose a few pounds by putting you off your next meal, best to try some exercise instead. How about taking up photography? That way you stand a chance of winning this last figure...

£3,500 The cash prize for the winner of the 2018 Art of Building photography competition. Go look at Some extraordinary photos of buildings – the unexpected and the breathtaking.

Happy 2019.

  • Robert Merry, MCIOB, is an independent Stone Consultant. He previously ran his own stone company for 17 years before becoming an independent project manager. He is now a consultant and also an expert witness in disputes regarding stone and stone contracts. Tel: 0207 502 6353 / 07771 997621.

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