Late payments and bad debts blight contractors

Landscape contractors have spoken of the pitfalls of late payment and bad debt following the shock collapse of Blakedown Landscapes (Operations) last week after 45 years in business.

They expressed surprise at news of the company going into administration. All 55 staff have been made redundant by the restructuring and insolvency firm handling the administration. CVR Global was appointed as administrator on 10 June.

The landscape company is based in Worcester and has facilities in Bristol, Tamworth, Leeds and Weybridge. Its directors blamed bad debt amounting to more than £600,000 after the collapse of two major clients - GB Building Solutions and Fairhurst Ward Abbotts.

The former, a £200m-turnover enterprise, went bust in 2015 following legal disputes and cash-flow problems. Creditors in the trade were owed £30m and some subcontractors were ruined. Fairhurst held a royal warrant, had worked on prestigious projects such as Chatsworth House and the Houses of Parliament and "looked good on paper".

CVR Global partner Craig Povey said this week: "We're conducting a full review of Blakedown Landscapes (Operations) finances and assets. We will report back to creditors in due course. We've received interest from a number of parties about taking over the company and will be speaking to all interested parties in the coming days."

Bosses of Blakedown Landscapes (Operations)Nicholas Barfoot, Jonathon Griffin and managing director Jonathan Salem expressed "heartfelt sadness" at the fate of their £14m-turnover company. It is not connected or associated with the separate trading companies Blakedown Environment & Leisure, Blakedown Landscapes (SE) and Blakedown Sport & Play.

Commenting on the risks involved in contracting, Frosts Landscapes commercial director Aidan Lane pointed out that his company has suffered from non payment, with one dispute over retention cash running a decade. "Working on big, major projects can throw up risks," he pointed out. "If one of them goes 'pop' it could have a major effect on you business. You have to review contracts regularly."

Even when landscape companies know they are in the right on money owed they have to ask whether it is better to write it off and take it as a bad experience, he added. "Sometimes you go to court over bad debt, which means more effort, risk, time and consultants. Before you know it you've spent another £200,000 or £300,000 just chasing that payment."

Gavin Jones business development director Yvette Etcell said: "It's really important to undertake forward risk assessments at the highest level, as you do for pests and diseases. We did a risk assessment during the recession. It was clearly at the top of our list of threats. But you can never eliminate - you can only mitigate - them."

Steps could include ensuring a more systematic uptake of references or debt checks and demanding upfront deposits or payment-on-account deals with customers not dealt with before.

Etcell insisted Gavin Jones is not interested in taking over assets or unfinished jobs from Blakedown Landscapes (Operations) because "we have enough on our plate at the moment".

She pointed out how unlucky the company has been. "They diversified from public sector work to corporate during the recession, which is good practice, only to get stung by a royal warrant holder," said Etcell. "I think that they were very, very unlucky and I'm sure they are feeling very angry."

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next

IoG Saltex 2016 - show preview

IoG Saltex 2016 - show preview

This year's Saltex will be looking to build on the success of last year by packing in a multitude of exhibitors and sessions over the two days, Sally Drury reports.



These tidy evergreen trees are not just for Christmas and come in a range of shapes and sizes, writes Miranda Kimberley.

Tree lifting, moving  and planting

Tree lifting, moving and planting

Successful relocations can see even big trees flourish while costing less than buying new stock, says Sally Drury.

Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Are you a landscape supplier?

Horticulture Week Landscape Project Leads

If so, you should be receiving our new service for Horticulture Week subscribers delivering landscape project leads from live, approved, planning applications across the UK.

Landscape Contracts & Tenders

Industry Data

New: We have pooled the wealth of data from the past six months' worth of Landscape Project Leads to create an exclusive report for subscribers looking at the key development trends, clients and locations for 2016.