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Contractor of the Year: Winner

Winner: Wates Group

To win at the Construction News Awards, you can’t just be an exemplar firm and you can’t just have had an exceptional year – you need both.

Wates Group’s turnover for 2016 was up 20.4 per cent to £1.53bn, with profit before tax up 17.1 per cent at £35.5m.

With Wates having set out its ambition to become a £2bn-turnover company by 2020, it’s clear this is a firm that means what it says.

This increase in profit has not been achieved through slashing costs or at the expense of, say, training. In fact the contractor spent £1m on developing its people last year.

Nor has it been done by neglecting policies around sustainability. Indeed, 2016 saw it win the Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development, the second time it has done so, which it says makes it unique among contractors.

And it hasn’t been by paying mere lip service to corporate social responsibility. The judges were delighted to hear that the group was involved with 72 charitable projects in 2016, with group strategy director and managing director for government affairs Stephen Beechey working alongside 25 colleagues to renovate a Nottingham leisure centre.

Standout projects last year included work on the Houses of Parliament and the BREEAM Outstanding Central Square in Leeds. The group also delivered the largest repairs and maintenance contracts in Europe for Birmingham City Council, where £2m was spent with social enterprises supporting disabled people looking for employment.

“Wates boasts an excellent workforce culture, with first-class training and development that’s embedded across its business” 

Judges’ comment

The judging panel cross-examined Wates’ treatment of its supply chain and noted that 70 per cent of its suppliers were SMEs last year.

They asked about Wates’ standard payment terms, and although these are normally 40 days, 74 per cent of sites use social enterprises and payment terms for these are 20 days.

The group looks after its supply chain in other ways too, launching an initiative that has seen it organise dinners and events for networking as well as the sharing of best practice, with 10 such events put on throughout the year.

On diversity, 24 per cent of group staff are female with 11.5 per cent from ethnically diverse backgrounds.

The judges also praised Wates’ progress on the zero harm initiative, the company recording a 73 per cent fall in dangerous occurrences.

Its strength in all these areas makes Wates a worthy winner of Contractor of the Year. 

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