Landscapers told to tread with care in wake of Wrekin collapse

Landscapers are being urged to exercise extreme caution in working with construction firms following the collapse of a major company.

Wrekin Construction was taken into administration last week, leaving a trail of unfinished work and unpaid bills.

BALI chief executive Sandra Loton-Jones said: "We would re-commend that members consider their relationship carefully when agreeing to the terms of, and working with, main contractors on development projects - regardless of size and their time in the business - as the current economic climate has made financial backers pull out unexpectedly when they have lost confidence in the market."

Ground Control senior contracts manager Neil Huck added: "I would strongly advise anyone, before contemplating taking on work with construction companies, to get a full credit check and look not just at last year's results but at the current status as well. There are a number of companies that could go under."

Shropshire-based Wrekin's directors have been criticised for trying to shift the blame onto the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) for not bailing them out.

The managing director of a landscaping firm with offices nationwide, who did not wish to be named, told HW: "They owe a lot of money to landscapers like ourselves and other contractors."

Crewe & Nantwich Borough Council landscape architect Allan Leah had been working with Wrekin on a restoration project in local Queens Park.

The council had awarded a £1.63m contract to Wrekin to carry out work including building bridges and soft landscaping of lake edges.

Leah said: "We were supposed to complete in March but we will be looking at late summer now. We are lucky, though, because we had only given money to Wrekin for work they had completed.

"We had a good relationship with the team on site, but they are all redundant now."

The council will use one of its other contractors from the project to complete the work, added Leah.

More than 400 people lost their jobs after RBS called in administrator Ernst & Young because Wrekin had unpaid debts to contractors worth around £2m to £3m.

The administrators had previously said the firm had a strong record of deals but had been hit by a temporary cash-flow problem.

An Ernst & Young representative said: "At the appointment, Wrekin Construction was the subject of five winding-up petitions and approximately 40 County Court Judgements."

John O'Conner Grounds Maintenance business development manager Darren Kilby said the firm had a policy of not working with construction companies.

"We tend not to work with construction companies for that very issue - you can have difficulties," he said. "Obviously, there are lots of very good construction firms but we don't want to go through chasing to get money."

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