Business roundup

The first plastic banknotes in Britain will be introduced in Scotland next year and celebrate Forth Bridge builder Sir William Arrol. The £5 notes will be issued in March 2015 to coincide with the 125th anniversary of the rail bridge.

Government has published the Major Projects Authority’s second annual report into the performance of 199 major projects with a forecast lifetime cost of £488bn. The report notes that 47 new projects have entered the MPA portfolio. It also says that half of the civil service project leaders have attended the Government’s new Major Project’s Leadership Academy. The result is that while in the past more than half of project reviewers were consultants, last year that figure fell to 13% through developing in house skills. 

Nearly seven out of 10 construction firms in Scotland are planning to take on apprentices as industry confidence continues to rise, a survey has found. The latest Scottish Construction Monitor found 69% of firms surveyed expected to recruit apprentices in the next 12 months. This compared with 60% over the past year.

Business Secretary Vince Cable is proposing new measures to help smaller firms get paid on time including requiring larger firms to publish information of their payment practices. Where legislation is required, it will be introduced “when parliamentary time allows.” Government will work with the Institute of Credit Management to strengthen the Prompt Payment Code and to increase accountability of signatories. 

Balfour Beattyhas been awarded a £43.9 million contract to design and build the Highways Agency A1 Coal House to Metro Centre improvement scheme in Gateshead. In a busy week the contractor also announced a record £1bn spend with SMEs across the country, the largest ever by a construction contractor. And that it had sold its 50% interest in the University Hospital of North Durham PPP project and its 100% interest in the Knowsley Building Schools for the Future (BSF) project to Dalmore Capital for £97M.

Edinburgh’s tram service opened on 31 May and took 21,000 customers on it’s first day. The 14km route has taken twice as long to build as originally planned and the network has halved. 

CBI’s latest quarterly Service Sector Survey has revealed growing optimism, business volumes rising briskly and firms taking on more staff. In the three months to May, firms were increasingly confident about the business situation, with optimism rising at the fastest rate since the start of the survey in 1998, while business volumes rose again, marking a full year of growth. The survey of 151 firms also revealed that companies have continued to take on more staff and increased expenditure on training.    

Competitive bidding for local government transport funds could result in wasted expenditure on unsuccessful bids and could favour better resourced authorities, the Commons Transport Select Committee has said. Strategically important transport projects could end up not being funded if they do not deliver immediate benefits for Local Enterprise Partnerships or local authorities, it has warned in its report Local transport expenditure: who decides? Department for Transport needs to maintain strategic oversight of the new arrangements, it said. 


Laing O’Rourke has appointed Buro Happold chief executive Paul Westbury as group technical director. Buro Happold has appointed Roger Nickells as chief executive officer and Oliver Plunkett as Middle East managing director.

Infrastructure professionals named in the 2014 Queen's Birthday Honours list included former Arup chairman Philip Dilley who received a knighthood for services to the profession, former ICE president and URS energy director Richard Coackley who was awarded CBE and Valerie Todd, Director of Talent and Resources at Crossrail who was also awarded CBE.

Tighter lending market is reducing home buying says the latest residential market survey from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Demand in London fell during May, the first decline since June 2012.