Show Hide image

Balfour Beatty warns 12,000 jobs at risk

Company has contacted all its UK construction employees.

Balfour Beatty has told it 12,000-strong UK construction staff that their jobs are at risk, as the country's largest contractor is expected to cut thousands of jobs in the wake of a slowing in the building industry, construction magazine Building reported Wednesday.

The cuts come as the construction giant seeks to streamline its UK operations. Balfour Beatty Construction, Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering, Mansell and Balfour Beatty Engineering Services are all likely see cuts.

Balfour has not said how many employees will lose their jobs.

The restructuring is intended "to align the resources of Balfour Beatty's Construction Services UK business to current and future market conditions." In its 2011 Annual Report, released earlier this week, the company said:

To achieve further growth we are working to develop our position in new geographies and resource-rich economies such as Brazil, India, Australia and Canada, and we are intensifying our focus on high-growth sectors such as power, rail, mining and transportation.

India and Brazil...represent larger infrastructure markets than the UK, [and] are allowing private capital to play a growing role in infrastructure provision.

Balfour employs 50,000 people in more than 80 countries.

The FTSE 250 company was involved in the Olympic Aquatics Centre, and is working on Blackfriars Bridge. New construction contracts are expected to decline post Olympics.

Balfour turned a pre-tax profit of £334m in 2011, up 9 per cent from a year earlier.

Shares in Balfour fell steadily throughout the morning, shedding 3 per cent by late morning.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.