Invited by the University of Birmingham Conservatives, controversial backbench MP Jacob Rees-Mogg visited campus on Friday 9th March, speaking about his views on free speech, housing, mental health, Russia and tuition fees to a packed lecture theatre of around 300 students.Written by Erin Santillo & John Wimperis on 16th March 2018
Library Builder Goes Bust
British based construction firm Carillion has gone into liquidation, reports News Editor Grace Duncan
The company which employs 20,000 people in the country has announced its collapse after running up debts of £900 million and a £590 million pension deficit.
Along with boasting work on the Royal Opera house the company also completed a number of jobs on the university campus with then President of CivSoc Beth McGoff commenting that it was ‘the big face of civil engineering on the university campus’ in 2016.
Its most recent project was the Bournbrook residence which started development in April 2016 and completed in September of 2017. It is housing 178 students this year.
Before that it completed the £42 million library which was welcomed enthusiastically by library services who said, ‘the new library is transformational’ when the library was handed over to the university in September 2016. It has been less enthusiastically received by students who have continued their complaints of the project since its opening a couple of years ago. It was also the contracter behind the Birmingham city library which opened in 2013.
When asked about what the effects could be on the university a spokesperson told Redbrick, ‘The University of Birmingham has worked with Carillion on a number of projects in the past. The majority of these projects are now complete, with only minor finishing touches being made. One building has only just been completed, and we are assessing what final work is required. If necessary, we are in a position to bring in a different contractor.’
The greater concern is what this means for the West Midlands area with the company employing 400 people in Wolverhampton alone. While government minister David Lidington has said that employees will continue to get paid, there are still concerns especially on behalf of small firms that carry out work on Carillion’s behalf.
The company is also in the process of constructing the 669-bed Midland Metropolitan Hospital which will substantially replace emergency service currently provided by City Hospital in Birmingham and Sandwell Hospital. It is reported that NHS managers have begun talks with the Treasury to ensure that the hospital will still be able to open in 2019 as planned.
Birmingham MP Jack Dromey has said ‘it was reckless management on the one hand that led to this but also, the government stood back and let it happen. We need to protect jobs and also the pensions of Carillion staff, some of whom have worked for the business for decades.’
Significantly the company is also involved in major national projects such as the HS2 high speed rail line which will connect London and Birmingham when it opens in 2026 and it is the second biggest supplier of maintenance services to Network Rail.
The government has come under fire this week as it has come to light that it awarded eight contracts to the company after it issued profit warnings, six of which were joint venture with other firms.
Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey has also said: ‘This company issued three profit warnings in the last six months yet despite those profit warnings the government continued to grant contracts to this company.’
What happens next depends on the actions of the court-appointed official receiver who will review Carillion’s business. This could take months until this issue is resolved.
The university has made it clear that the campus will not be affected and that all current contracts will be completed.