Has Exeter based construction giant Midas lost its Golden Touch?

“One of the South West’s largest employers, the Exeter-based construction giant Midas, has reportedly filed a court notice of its intention to appoint an administrator.”

Steve Hindley, the Executive Chairman of the Midas Group, is also Chair of the “Great South West” which seems to have set itself up to take a leadership role for promoting economic growth across a number of neighbouring Local Enterprise Partnerships in the peninsular. 

In February 2020, with incredibly bad timing, “The Great South West” sent a report to Savid Javid just as he was replaced by Rishi Sunak, see: “The Great South West pitches to the wrong man. A week is a long time in politics” . Then the pandemic broke.

In July 2020 The Great South West appeared to be defunct, but it re-emerged in time for the G7 to publish a new, green, way forward in June 2021. This “greening” report, however, was  written by none other than one of the main polluters of our rivers and seas, the Pennon Group.

Currently we await Michael Gove’s “levelling up” White Paper, supposedly this week, but who knows what the government’s agenda is these days.

Concerns over future of SW construction giant

Colleen Smith www.devonlive.com 

The £290million turnover company filed the notice for itself and its main subsidiary Midas Construction Limited, the UK’s leading building trade resource Construction News revealed.

It follows a DevonLive exclusive yesterday which revealed that work had come to a virtual standstill on three major hotel construction projects worth £40m-plus in Torbay.

Midas is one of the region’s largest employers, with more than 400 people directly employed and supporting more than 10,000 jobs in supply chains.

The Exeter-headquartered business is ranked as the ninth largest in the Top 150 businesses in Devon and Cornwall 2021.

A notice of intention (NOI) typically means that a company will formally appoint an administrator within 10 days, unless it can find an alternative financial solution to its problems first. It follows the resignation of Midas Group’s commercial director Scott Poulter at the end of December and a nine-page Registration of Charge was posted on Companies House in mid January.

Administration is often used as part of a company restructure if the business is deemed viable. Directors can purchase some or all of the assets, and set up a ‘newco’ to move forward and save the business.

Midas is one of the region’s largest employers, with more than 400 people directly employed and supporting more than 10,000 jobs in supply chains.

The Exeter-headquartered business is ranked as the ninth largest in the Top 150 businesses in Devon and Cornwall 2021.

If they do enter administration there will be eight weeks in which to save the company, with sale as a going concern often the preferred option.

After months of concern within the building trade, fears for the company’s future mounted this week after the Fragrance Group spoke publicly to DevonLive about its fears for the lack of progress over the last three months at its twin £30m new hotel builds on Paignton seafront.

At the same time work ceased at the £11m construction of the Premier Inn in Torquay on The Terrace.

The company said its projects had been affected by the pandemic, Brexit, and labour and material inflation and shortages. “We are working closely with all our stakeholders to resolve the situation,” it said in a statement issued this morning.

A number of subcontractors have today revealed that they are owed five-figure sums by the company, whose HQ is in Pynes Hill, Exeter, and with offices stretching across the South West from Southampton to South Wales.

Last year the company reported a £2m pre-tax loss for the first time in it’s 40 year history. Midas is one of the UK’s largest privately-owned construction and property services companies.

Singapore-based Fragrance Group appointed Midas to build the two new hotels on Paignton seafront in January 2020, but after three months with little progress on the build their patience ran out this week.

A spokesperson for the group told DevonLive : “Over the past three months, the Fragrance Group has become increasingly concerned by the very limited progress on our two new Paignton seafront hotel developments, located on the neighbouring sites of the former Park Hotel and Lighthouse club.

“We are in constant discussions with the main contractors and are now reviewing our options to complete the development of these hotels.

“Our priority is to deliver these two new seafront hotels which mark a vital investment in the wider Torbay. We can confirm that the Fragrance Group is committed to Torbay.”

Torbay Council contracted Midas to build the £11m Premier Inn at The Terrace in Torquay. But after work stopped on site this week a council spokesman said on Thursday: “We are working with Midas to identify any issues that may be affecting the site and any required solutions.”

Midas works primarily in the commercial sector and also delivered jobs in the residential and education markets, with much of its work in the South West. In Torquay they are also currently building a new Special Educational Needs department at St Cuthbert Mayne school.

A spokesman for Midas told DevonLive yesterday: “As is well known in the industry there are issues relating to Brexit, Covid, ongoing shortages of materials and labour, and significant cost inflation, which are providing challenges to project delivery and timescales.

“We are working closely with all our stakeholders to resolve the situation.”

Former councillor to pay almost £50,000 after unsuccessful High Court challenge

A former Hartlepool councillor will have to pay almost £50,000 in legal fees after an unsuccessful High Court challenge to void a result in the May 2021 local elections.

Laura Love www.gazettelive.co.uk

The hearing took place following a petition from Bob Buchan over claims of damaging information in Labour’s campaign material shortly before the 2021 local elections.

Mr Buchan, who previously represented the Independent Union on the borough council, missed out on being one of three councillors elected in the Fens and Greatham ward to Labour’s Jennifer Elliott by 609 votes to 619.

After hearing evidence on Thursday, judge Philip Kramer on Friday concluded the statement in the election material related to “political conduct and character”, rather than a “personal” attack, and ruled in favour of Cllr Elliott.

He said: “The exercise of a vote in committee is a political act, the councillor is discharging a political function.

“Politicians are entrusted to take these decisions on the public’s behalf and when they discharge that trust, they are undertaking a political act, which is correctly characterised as political conduct.”

The defence submitted legal costs of just under £79,000 to the court, with the judge ruling Mr Buchan must pay just over £48,000 of this, after questioning and analysing the fees.

Speaking at the hearing Mr Buchan, said he had kept his legal costs to “about £3,500” and noted he will have to seek “support from family and friends” to pay the defence’s fees.

Speaking after the result, Mr Buchan said: “I’m naturally disappointed with the outcome of this case.

“The reason I brought this case in the first place is that Jennifer had informed 700 residents in the village I voted in favour of a controversial development, when it has now been proven in open court and accepted by Jennifer that this was not true.

“I am astounded that the defence team asked for almost £79,000 and I’m grateful for the judge for slashing the bill down by almost £30,000.”

The fees must be paid within 28 days, however Mr Buchan was told he can make a request to pay in instalments.

The case revolved around a Labour campaign letter just days before the May local elections, which claimed Mr Buchan had voted in favour of a controversial development for 18 council homes in Hill View, in Greatham, which was approved in January 2021.

The former councillor reiterated he was not at the meeting when plans were approved, and voted against a similar previous application in July 2020.

Judge Kramer ruled there was “no dispute” Mr Buchan did not vote in favour, as he was not present at the meeting .

During the hearing, Cllr Elliott had said it was an “honest mistake” in stating Mr Buchan had voted for the application.

However Mr Buchan had said he felt there had been an “attack on his reputation and good standing in the community” with the comments made in election material.

Speaking after the case, Cllr Elliott said she was “very pleased” with the court’s ruling and she is now focused on continuing to “fight for the residents of Fens and Greatham”.

She said: “I would like to thank all those who have supported me through a stressful and unpleasant time.

“I am looking forward to getting back to what really matters.”

Judge Kramer, speaking at the start of proceedings, had said if Mr Buchan had been successful, the result of the election would have been “void” and “have to be rerun”.

GPs nationalised in Javid plan to reduce hospital admissions

GPs would be nationalised under plans from the health secretary to make them do more to keep patients out of hospital.

Chris Smyth www.thetimes.co.uk

Sajid Javid is considering radical changes to the 70-year-old structure of the NHS that could see many family doctors directly employed by hospitals instead of running their own surgeries.

He has told Boris Johnson that there are “considerable drawbacks” to the system under which GP surgeries are in effect independent contractors paid per patient by the NHS.

A review of primary care planned by Javid will look at how to better integrate GPs with hospital care as part of attempts to do more to stop people developing serious illness.

Sources insisted there would be no forcible state takeover of GPs, who are likely instead to be given incentives to link up with hospital trusts.

The plans are likely to provoke resistance from doctors who said that the independence of GPs boosts innovation and offers value for taxpayers’ money.

Javid is keen to accelerate the pace of reform in the NHS as he feels pressure to deliver tangible progress in exchange for billions of pounds in extra funding.

He is reviewing hospital management to hold NHS chiefs more closely to account as well as considering “academy style” hospitals with more freedoms, which he hopes will start taking over GPs.

This month he wrote to the prime minister setting out his ideas for NHS reform, telling Johnson that he had “an ambitious agenda that has the potential to be a central plank of your domestic policy legacy”.

He suggested setting up a “new National Vaccination Service” to free surgeries from the need to administer regular Covid boosters, which could keep on some of the non-medical vaccinators employed during the pandemic to administer routine immunisations.

GPs in England were told to prioritise boosters before Christmas, but this week they were told by NHS England to “restore routine services” now that demand for jabs has dropped off.

In the letter, seen by The Times, Javid said: “Whilst there are some strengths to the system of primary care, it’s also clear that the historic separation of general practice from the wider healthcare system as created in 1948 comes with considerable drawbacks including an underinvestment in prevention.” He says he will launch “an independent review of the future of primary care”, to look at “workforce, business models and how GPs work with the other parts of the NHS such as hospitals”.

This month, The Times reported that Javid was considering a new class of “reform trust” in the NHS, modelled on the academy school scheme. The letter said that they would “drive innovation with the freedom to improve outcomes by pioneering approaches including by bringing together primary and secondary care”. The idea has been dubbed the Wolverhampton model after the city’s hospital took over GP practices and cut emergency admissions.

Martin Marshall, the head of the Royal College of GPs, said the current model “delivers exceptional benefits for the NHS”, and that the main problem was a lack of qualified staff. “There has to be a very good reason for changing a model that works well” for all.

Aren’t GPs already run by the NHS?

Although GPs are the front door to the health service, practices have never been owned by the government but are owned and managed by GP partners, whose pay in effect comes out of surgery profits.

How are GPs paid?

Surgeries get a fixed sum per patient, currently £155 a year, with extras for hitting targets on chronic conditions and for offering extra services, with allowances for extra staff such as pharmacists.

Why is the NHS set up like this?

It was a compromise struck as Nye Bevan set up the NHS facing resistance from the British Medical Association and others, who compared the plans to Nazism. To buy off their opposition, he allowed consultants to carry on seeing private patients and GPs to remain independent small businesses.

What is the case for reform?

Joining up care and preventing chronic illness is a key goal of health systems globally. Some argue that the divide between GPs and hospitals hampers this integration. Hospitals lack the opportunity to prevent disease while GPs lack the resources and financial incentives to prevent disease they do not pay to treat.

What is the case against?

GPs are established, developing long-term local links and are responsive to patients, not looking to the NHS hierarchy and an unresponsive bureaucracy.

Are any GPs paid a salary?

Yes, and the number is growing as fewer younger doctors want the responsibility of in effect running a small business. The number of salaried GPs in England has gone from 6,650 in 2009-19 to 11,000 in 2019-20, a rise of 65 per cent. GP contractors have fallen 27 per cent from 26,400 to 19,250.

What does nationalisation mean in practice?

Javid’s allies insist family doctors will not be forced to hand over their surgeries. They are more likely to be offered incentives to become part of larger NHS organisations, often hospitals.

What will this mean for patients?

The goal is a more seamless link between doctors and specialists, meaning problems picked up quicker and patients given help staying well. Critics say the changes will not address the fundamental problem of falling GP numbers.

Sidmouth: The clifftop homes that are ‘falling into the sea’ because of the climate crisis

Paul Griew always knew that his home, which sits on top of a cliff in Devon, would not last for ever.

www.independent.co.uk 

When he bought it in the late 1990s, he worked out that it would take 300 years for the crumbling edge to reach his property.

But the rate of erosion has since increased. “It’s 30 years at best at the moment,” the retired 73-year-old tells The Independent from his living room overlooking the sea.

His house in Sidmouth is one of many across the UK whose lifespan will be determined by how quickly the cliffs on which they sit crumble.

The Climate Change Committee, which advises the government, has warned that more than 100,000 properties could be at risk of coastal erosion by 2080.

Since Mr Griew has lived in his house on Cliff Road, he has seen around 20 metres of his garden, including a summer house, tumble into the English Channel.

When the first section went, the 73-year-old rushed to check that the gardener – who had been there not long before – was safe. “I told him and he had to sit down,” he says.

Five minutes later, the summer house followed over the side of the cliff.

Mr Griew says he was just about to go and collect some things from it when the bit beyond it collapsed. “And I didn’t, fortunately.”

Even so, the retired consultant says he does not worry too much about getting caught in a collapse. “It happens once every six years and you lose five or six metres. So the chances of it going when you’re there are quite low.”

He adds: “I tend to keep at least a metre away from the edge anyway.”

While he would lose 10cm of his garden every year when he first bought the property, it is now more like a metre.

Mr Griew says one of the reasons is that the flood defences set up to protect the town of Sidmouth have prevented a process known as longshore drift – a natural defence against coastal erosion – which means that shingle has not been able to build up at the base of the cliff.

The Environment Agency has also warned that the risk of coastal erosion is growing as sea levels rise and the frequency of storms increases as a result of the climate crisis.

But for Maria and Richard Dudley, who live further up the road, the threat is a small price to pay for a house in such a scenic position.

“Where else would you get this view for less than a million?” Maria asks from her garden backing out onto the sea.

She explains that the garden has lost just a metre of its 60-metre length since they bought the property around seven years ago.

Her husband tells The Independent that coastal erosion is “not a problem”. However, he says, he is fed up with the publicity.

Another resident, Jasmine Reeves, says house prices are being driven down by the crumbling landscape – but puts this down to a lack of protection rather than media attention.

The 31-year-old says her house – which lost its orchard over the side of the cliff – has been valued at around £750,000. “But the properties around here would go for more than that if it wasn’t for the cliff,” she adds.

But this isn’t a problem for Mr Griew, who is not thinking about selling his house – despite the fact that it could disappear into the sea within the next few decades.

That isn’t to say its estimated lifespan of 30 years doesn’t bother him. It could always end up being faster than that, and it would be nice to pass the house on to his children, he says.

“But also it’s a lovely position,” he adds, as the sea gleams through the huge glass doors at the back of the house. “It’s worth keeping houses along here.”

After years of back and forth between different agencies, engineers, consultants and the council, there are plans for protective measures, including several metres of shingle on the beach and groynes, Mr Griew says.

“We’re told summer of 2023 is a likely start date, but I’m not holding my breath at the moment,” he adds.

An East Devon District Council spokesperson said that the gradual erosion of the East Beach cliffs was “natural and unpredictable”, as the rocks are soft and prone to falls – although periods of heavy rain can increase the rate.

Experts suggested that heavier and more frequent storms as a result of the climate crisis, more rainfall, the collapse of an abandoned railway tunnel, manmade structures on the promenade and the Sidmouth flood defences are all possible reasons behind the increased cliff erosion. “Any of these could be the cause, or it may be simply a combination of all of them,” they said.

The council has faced delays to its beach management plan while trying to secure extra funding, and is aiming to start work on the £14m project in 2024, the spokesperson added.