THE managing director of a firm which is set to lose money as a result of the collapse of building contractor Camerons is calling on the government to set out a long-term vision for the construction industry and support local companies.
Mike Osborne, who leads aggregate and concrete supplier Ronez, said his company was owed money by Camerons, which suddenly stopped trading at the end of February.
A ‘statement of affairs’, which was produced by Camerons’ directors and handed out to creditors at a meeting on 12 March, indicates that firms are unlikely to receive money owed to them.
Mr Osborne said that, while this would ‘hurt’ Ronez, it was a large and robust company which would be able to weather the storm. However, he added that he was concerned for smaller businesses which were out of pocket.
He said: ‘While government has no responsibility to step in when a limited company goes bust, it does have an obligation to ensure the security, long-term effectiveness and viability of the local construction industry.
‘When a company goes into liquidation with little or no warning, there is always a risk of contagion, in that other businesses in the supply chain are relying on that cash to operate.
‘Because of Camerons’ collapse, there is £5.6 million that should be flowing through the industry that isn’t.’
Mr Osborne said that the government had delayed or blocked construction projects, such as South Hill, Gas Place and Kensington Place, at a time when the industry needed confidence.
‘Firms can recruit, train and invest but it will only do so if there is confidence, but this government is making decisions that fail to provide it. Why put all that risk to grow your business when a project could be cancelled on a whim?’
He continued: ‘Also, we appear to be seeing a near-messianic mission from ministers to import building solutions, such as modular construction, whenever possible.
‘Importing building solutions to alleviate short-term concerns means you are exporting the economic value of construction, and that weakens the local construction industry.
‘And once that model becomes embedded, it is nailed on that it will become more expensive.’
Mr Osborne said there remained a lot of unanswered questions about the demise of Camerons, including the circumstances around the realisation of cash in relation to the restructuring of the group.
‘We have to trust the appointed liquidators to follow through their investigation,’ he said.
Another creditor, Matt Renouf, who is director of crane-hire business Fetch & Karrie, said he was owed tens of thousands of pounds by Camerons.
‘It has had a big impact on my business,’ he said. ‘I employ 12 members of staff, so have wages to pay and cranes to maintain and fuel.
‘I’m reconciled to the fact that I’m not going to see any of that money, but I have lots of questions that I’d like answered about the collapse of Camerons, such as what became of the £2.25m that Camerons loaned to Garenne Group, which itself has now gone bust?’
‘Hopefully, the liquidators will get to the bottom of it, providing there’s enough money in the pot to pay their fees.’
Keith Wright owns Keda Construction, which supplied cranes to Camerons at Merchants Square in Bath Street. He employs 18 people and said he too was ‘tens of thousands of pounds’ out of pocket.
‘It’s had a massive effect on the business and it’s certainly left a bitter taste in my mouth,’ he said. ‘We had heard on the grapevine that Camerons was in trouble so we contacted them a week before payment was due, just to check that everything would go through.
‘We were told that everything was fine, and we would be paid, yet we heard at 6am on payday at the end of February that Camerons had stopped trading, which meant we lost out for the whole of that month.
‘We have to deal with this setback as best we can, but it is not easy.’