Shrugging off Shortages


Amidst growing concerns over materials supplies, the UK construction industry has once again confounded common sense to deliver yet another upbeat set of month contract award figures. Builders’ Conference CEO Neil Edwards reports.

When Brexit threatened to destabilise the British economy, the construction industry soldiered on as if nothing had happened.   When the COVID-19 pandemic made landfall in the UK, the construction industry carried on regardless.   So now, when a shortage of construction materials is considered bad enough to make the TV news, it should probably come as no surprise to see the sector shrug its collective shoulders and – in the manner of a petulant teenager – sneer “yeah, whatever”.

In a month shortened by national holidays, the BCLive league table celebrated a further easing of lockdown restrictions, delivering more than £6.2 billion in new contract awards.   Set against an established norm of £4 billion per month, it is just the latest example of positivity and the industry’s unwavering resilience.

Storming to the top of the BCLive league table in May 2021 is a Mace/Dragados joint venture, which picked up a single contract valued at £570 million.   That contract is for the construction of a new railway station at Curzon Street in Birmingham and forms part of the mammoth HS2 project.

Like the gift that keeps on giving, HS2 was also responsible for propelling another joint venture into second place.   EKFB – a joint venture between Eiffage, Kier, Ferrovial and BAM – will build a new railway line from Twyford to Greatworth, following the corridor of the former Great Central Line.   The line will pass through existing cuttings to be largely hidden from view; but the project also includes the construction of several embankments and viaducts.

The eternal battle for the highest number of contracts per month flared up again this month, with usual suspects Kier and Morgan Sindall going head-to-head.   Kier came out on top with a haul of 18 new contract awards valued at a combined £313 million.   But Kier was pipped into fourth place by Morgan Sindall, which picked up 16 new contract awards valued at a combined £407 million.   

The largest of the Morgan Sindall contracts was won by its house-building division, Lovell Partnerships.   Valued at £85 million, that contract is for the construction of 528 dwellings at a development called Royal Victoria Court at Newport in Wales.

In fifth position on the BCLive league table is Winvic Construction, which reported five new contract awards during the month worth in total £293 million.   The most significant of these is a £248 million contract for the construction of a new industrial estate at Dummer in Basingstoke.

In a month in which each of top 16 on the BCLive league table picked up more than £100 million in new work, Mulalley Planned Maintenance took the number six position, collecting a 10-year framework deal for the refurbishment and repair of dwellings operated by Lewisham Homes.

Despite a strong showing from the railway sector that contributed £1.11 billion to the monthly total, the house-building sector remains unassailable, delivering 171 individual projects valued at £2.16 billion.

Individually, London also retained its top position with 119 new contract awards valued at almost £1.32 billion.   However, with £1.13 billion and £638 million respectively, the West and East Midlands together have a good claim for the top spot.

Of course, all these new contract awards have not made the worsening materials shortages vanish miraculously.   In truth, they may just exacerbate the situation.   But the majority of the contracts awarded in May 2021 will be unlikely to require materials on site until after the summer.   By that time, materials suppliers will have hopefully ramped up production to satisfy the continuing high levels of demand.

While that remains a concern for the future, the sector’s present – seemingly against all odds and expectations – continues to look positive.

Quick review of BCLive table for May 2021

  • 332 no companies were detailed as winning new contracts during May 2021
  • 551 no new construction orders were researched by Builders’ Conference all detailed on the UK’s only Live league table of construction contract awards BCLive
  • A JV of Mace & Dragados secured overall top spot with a single contract worth £570 billion
  • Kier Group regained its position as the company with the most number of new construction orders in the month with 18no totaling £313.8 million

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Data & analysis for May 2021 carried out by the industry recognised team here at Builders’ Conference together with the UK’s only Live table of construction contracts BCLive table with its unique feature of detailing all companies researched as winning new projects in the month, clearly separating itself from ALL other league tables which are neither LIVE or inclusive of all companies researched as winning new construction contracts (see also attached reports) – The UK construction sector contract awards in May 2021 rose by nearly 10% to just over £6.29 billion


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