Payment rows topple Swift Horsman and cost 220 jobs

Aaron Morby 10 years ago

Delayed and disputed payments on contracts were a chief cause for the collapse of fit-out specialist Swift Horsman.

Problems with getting paid cost all 220 staff jobs at the £40m turnover Hertfordshire joinery and fit-out contractor this week.

The collapse of one of the industry’s “life blood firms” has fuelled rage among specialists about resurgent main contractor payment abuse as the downturn deepens.

Yesterday administrator PwC confirmed all the firm’s staff had been laid off and it would now attempt to find buyers for any assets at the group’s six companies.

Karen Dukes, joint administrator and partner at PwC, said: “The company has suffered as a result of cost overruns on recent projects, impacted by the difficulties in the construction sector.

“The directors have been attempting to sell the business, but no buyer could be confirmed and they had no option but to place the company into administration.

“Unfortunately, we have had to make all the employees redundant immediately and will now be seeking a sale of the business and assets.”

Suzannah Nichol, chief executive of the National Specialist Contractors’ Council, said: “I am sure all the details will come out in time but I do know that payment issues contributed to the position that Swift found itself in.

“Swift Horsman’s collapse is a tragic consequence of both the trading environment but also an industry that just does not value the supply chain that is actually the employer, trainer and provider of the majority of workers and workmanship on any construction project.

She added: “Seeing a firm that delivered to the highest standard go under, and just before Christmas, is incredibly sad.

“I have good friends at Swift and within other specialist contractors many of whom are suffering at the moment – and there has to be a better way for this huge industry to do business that means everyone can deliver their best and be treated fairly.”

Established 41 years ago, Swift Horsman directly employed its workforce, ran a training business and manufacturing base in Scotland. It gained awards and plaudits for taking on apprentices and adopted recommended best practices such as offsite manufacture.

The specialist firm earned a place as preferred subcontractor for many major contractors and developers, and worked on high-profile projects like the Shard, Olympic Village and Heathrow Airport.

David Frise, chief executive of the Association of Interior Specialists, said: “We are now seeing well established, well run companies going to the wall.

“The economic climate is clearly a massive factor but so is getting paid.

He said: “Payment practices in the industry are rarely illegal but often immoral.  Chasing money destroys value, restricts growth and ultimately costs jobs.”

Growing rage at ad hoc main contractor payment strategies was best illustrated by the boss of glazing specialist Dortech.

Director Steve Sutherland sacrificed £5m of turnover and a 13-year long relationship with Balfour Beatty because of their record of payments for completed work.

His story of vowing never to work with them again was greeted by a huge outpouring of support and concern about industry payment practices, which are now gaining attention in the national press.

Latest news

Bid rigging: Keltbray to appeal and so could Squibb

Both contractors "disappointed" with level of fines
2 days ago

Ten demolition firms fined £60m for bid rigging

Full details of fines with Erith and Keltbray hardest hit
3 days ago

Retail contractor J M Scully files administration notice

£23m turnover Dorset based contractor lodges court notice
2 days ago

Civils specialist M Lambe delivers record performance

Housing civils specialist seeks to diversify in face of challenging housing market
2 days ago

Willmott Dixon clinches £60m Oxford Brookes University job

Preparation work starts on two new buildings at Headington Hill campus
2 days ago

Ferns seals £50m+ Openreach network services deal

Five-year south west deal to provide civils, poling and complex manhole programme
2 days ago

20 firms win £4.5bn Southern construction framework

A dozen new firms secure spots on fifth generation public sector deal
3 days ago

Call grows for bolder 18m second staircase rule for flats

Architects, surveyors and builders professional trade bodies demand lower height threshold than proposed 30m
3 days ago

GRS Roadstone warns staff following cyber attack

Materials giant sends out letters highlighting the extent of the attack
3 days ago

Inland Homes to suspend shares as results delayed again

Auditors need more time to go through embattled house builder's books
3 days ago

Kier wins £73m Southport events centre job

Local supply chain set to benefit from major new project
3 days ago

Multiplex profit rebounds as margin restored to 2.9%

London tower builder predicts return to revenue growth this year as major schemes advance
4 days ago

Upbeat Vistry to re-open mothballed offsite factory

Former Countryside timber panel factories rebranded Vistry Works in revived drive to deliver 5,000 units a year
4 days ago

Builder crushed and blinded in wall collapse

Property owner in court after barn conversion goes horribly wrong
4 days ago

Keltbray bags £140m haul of energy infrastructure work

Specialist secures trio of power frameworks, two battery storage facilities and an energy from waste package
4 days ago

Government awards £1.8bn for energy retrofit schemes – list

Housing and public building decarbonising funds awards to support 20,000 construction jobs
4 days ago

Landmark London scheme switches from flats to student rooms

Regal London rethinks Old Kent Road scheme with 900 student rooms and 220 affordable homes
4 days ago

Align reveals designs for final portal of HS2 tunnel

Contractor confirms how final key structure on project will look
4 days ago

Plans in for 1.4m sq ft of industrial space at Fiddlers Ferry

Peel NRE to appoint demolition contractors for coal-fired power station in weeks
4 days ago

Tilbury Douglas to replace hospital hit by weak concrete

Stoke-on-Trent outpatients building containing Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete to be replaced
5 days ago

Derby picked as destination for Great British Railways HQ

Public vote secures Derby's bid to be nerve centre of the rail industry
5 days ago

London tower over historic Leadenhall market approved

Building work to start in 2025 on 32-storey tower by historic city market
5 days ago

PfH starts race for £520m housing decarbonising deal

Four-year framework covers service specific lots from £5m to £100m
5 days ago

“Rock solid” balance sheet and record results for Henry Boot

Firm sees early signs of recovery this year in core markets
5 days ago

£200m Edinburgh Haymarket office and hotel approved

Haymarket Yards scheme to move to construction in 2024
5 days ago

Countryside closes deal for £80m build to rent homes

Deal with private rental developer Sigma to speed up delivery at two sites
5 days ago

Wates commercial director joins Caddick

Neil Trubshaw one of a string of appointments as contractor looks to expand across the north
5 days ago

Fusion21 names 16 winners for £125m painting framework

Latest deal will last four-years for public sector clients
5 days ago

Watkin Jones breaks ground on Cardiff 700 flats scheme

Largest build-to-rent scheme in Wales gets underway
6 days ago

Green light for Birmingham 540-bed student scheme

Work to start on Gough Street student tower this summer
6 days ago

Contractor services