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CONTRACTORS' frustration with the Private Finance Initiative surfaced early in the month when the Treasury confirmed the cancellation of 12 PFI hospital projects and admitted its own £200 million headquarters refurbishment had foundered.

Workloads in house building looked set to continue rising: would-be buyers at a Laing Homes development in Surrey camped out in sleeping bags to be at the front of the queue.

Not all contractors were optimistic. Costain was told it faced expulsion from the London Stock Exchange if it missed a new deadline to file its overdue results.

Despite the wholesale scrapping of PFI hospital projects, prequalification notices for new schemes began reappearing in the Official Journal, raising the prospect of more time and money being wasted by hopeful bidders.

Applications for civil engineering courses at British universities dropped alarmingly. A survey by the

Institution of Civil Engineers recorded an 8 per cent drop since the previous year.

Costain's travails continued when it was revealed that George May, managing director of the firm's civil engineering division and 28 years with the company, had resigned following clashes with the new group chief executive, John Armitt.