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Bad payers brought to national attention

Zak Garner-Purkis

For those of you that missed it (I know there was a semi-important football game on) last night BBC Radio 4 broadcast a documentary on payment practices in the construction industry.

The programme, which featured contributions and research from Construction News, was not a typical subject for the File on 4 series, but turned out to be just as hard-hitting as many of its award-winning episodes.

It was unusual to hear the voices of hard-working construction subcontractors given a national airing.

They came across extremely well, showing how this is an industry that cares – sometimes too much.

From an early stage, CN worked hard to make sure the programme-makers got to hear the most important stories our readers have shared with us.

That did not just mean CN sharing accounts of subbies being paid late by main contractors. It also meant putting our readers in touch with the programme so their voices were heard.

We also provided CN100 data so that an accurate picture of industry business models could be presented.

As well as showing the passion and commitment of those in the supply chain, the programme also exposed some difficult home truths.

It showed how some of the biggest construction companies often use the supply chain as a financial crutch, even structuring business models to this end.

In February CN revealed allegations from subcontractors that Interserve was employing delay tactics over payments, with a number of firms expressing frustration at the tier one’s system. Interserve maintained that its policy was “to pay all creditors promptly”.

In April, Interserve reported a £244.4m pre-tax loss for 2017. Chief executive Debbie White, who did only move to the company in September 2017, had a £270,000 bonus signed off two months later.  

CN continues to hear allegations from subcontractors of poor payment practices involving other tier ones.

As the fallout from Carillion continues, accounts of late payment will undoubtedly raise further questions throughout the supply chain – and more widely – about main contractor business models. 

There have been numerous examples of how Carillion consistently extended its loan repayment terms by borrowing money against its subcontractors through initiatives such as the early payment facility.

The worse part? It’s still going on.

The one thing to know is that CN will continue to listen.

If you’ve got a story about poor payment practices or how to fix them, get in touch. We can’t promise that the information will end up on the BBC, but we can guarantee that we will do all we can to make sure the truth is reported.

You can listen to last night’s File on 4 programme here.

Send your stories here: 

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