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Tue August 09 2022

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Rick Willmott slams Building Safety Act 'travesty'

4 Jul New laws designed to fix endemic industry problems exposed by the Grenfell Tower fire have been slammed by Willmott Dixon chief executive and senior shareholder Rick Willmott.

Rick Willmott
Rick Willmott

Rick Willmott has today described the Building Safety Act as “a poorly conceived travesty of justice that shines a spotlight on popularist law making”.

His strong words came as his company posted its annual results for 2021 with a £10.7m cladding repair provision impacting on profitability for the year.  The cladding scandal has now cost Willmott Dixon £61m so far.

Profit before tax and amortisation was £13.3m, after writing down £10.7m under exceptional items, on turnover down from £1.2bn in 2020 to £1.1bn in 2021.

Willmott Dixon remained debt free at the start of 2022 with £113m cash in the bank.

Rick Willmott said: “Our underlying trading and profit was strong across all of Willmott Dixon’s operating companies, despite macro-challenges that the UK economy and the construction industry continue to face. However, our progress has been distorted by the need to increase our cladding related provisions to £61m in aggregate in line with accounting standards, while we pursue recovery from those organisations ultimately responsible for designs, fire safety advice and insurance protection.”

He continued: “We are all beginning to decipher the retrospective impact of the new Building Safety Act at a time when many in our industry will be wondering how the widespread failure of the government’s own regulatory and testing system has left building owners and their contractors facing uninsured and unquantifiable financial risks for residential properties certified as fully compliant with Building Regulations over the last 30 years.”

“It is a poorly conceived travesty of justice that shines a spotlight on popularist law making.  While the Act has quite rightly found a solution to the problems of innocent occupiers of some dangerous buildings, it has done so by making a scapegoat of the whole industry and by throwing developers, contractors and their supply chains under the proverbial bus rather than accepting the fundamental role that successive governments, their own regulators and agents have played in creating this mess."

The government's line is that it was the developers and contractors who put up lethal cladding systems on tall buildings all round the country, and so industry should pay to fix it. The Building Safety Act is designed to put an end after five years to what was famously described at the Grenfell Inquiry as "a merry-go-round of buck-passing".

Rick Willmott concluded: “Despite these evident headwinds, our teams have done a tremendous job securing over 95% of budgeted work already this year, and our £1.4bn order book provides a solid platform for the future.  Last year, over 60% of our work was on a repeat business basis, which is something that continues to grow as customers use a multitude of framework options to secure our teams to deliver their capital projects.”

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