Financially suspect Heslington contractors go into administration

Work on parts of the University Heslington East expansion were put on hold last week after the contractors, UCS Civils Ltd, went into administration.

A Nouse investigation has uncovered that UCS were awarded the £2.4 million contract at the end of last year despite serious questions regarding the financial failings of its parent company, the Rand Group.

The contract ensured the building of a new roundabout, a car park and internal roads. The first phase of this construction was initially due for completion early next year.

UCS collapsed when the parent company, the Rand Group, was forced into administration after struggling with financial difficulties for the past year.

A University spokesperson said they were “considering options” for how to complete this part of the project.

He continued: “Work on the Dean’s Acre link road will be extended. We are in the process of securing another contractor who will be on site in the new year with the aim of completing the work as soon as possible.”

Questions have been raised about the University’s decision to hire UCS for such a major part of the expansion project. UCS were contracted at the end of last year just after Linpave Construction, another part of the Rand Group, had also gone into administration. 2008 was the first year that UCS reported a profit since it was taken over in 2003, and the Rand Group has made no profits at all over the last five years.

Work on this part of the project has completely halted. All builders hired by UCS were sent home over a week ago. One of the builders working on the site, who preferred to remain anonymous, stated that if the building of the new roads and roundabout is put on hold it will “definitely impact the whole Heslington East expansion.”

He added: “I don’t know exactly what happened with that construction company but it doesn’t send out the best message about the management of the project.”

John Meacock, the Heslington East Project Director, stated: “We advertised the roads construction package for Heslington East in accordance with the European procurement rules. UCS submitted their proposal and were selected based upon a number of assessment criteria that included commercial evaluation and technical ability.

“The contract that we entered into with UCS provides sufficient safeguards to ensure that the work should be able to be completed without any additional cost to the University. We can confirm that the corporate information provided by UCS confirms that UCS were profitable in the recent past.”

In addition to stopping construction of the new roads, the collapse of UCS also means the temporary traffic lights on Hull Road will be in use longer than planned.

The traffic lights have been causing long queues and gridlock in and around the University, which has angered both students and locals.

A local resident has stated: “This project was supposed to be beneficial to our area but all it seems to be doing is causing annoyance.”

Jonathan Wells, Chief Executive of UCS, said: “This is a very sad day for all of us. Everyone in the business has fought valiantly for many months in the face of the most damaging recession any of us can remember.”

Ian Green and Stuart Maddison, of Pricewaterhouse Coopers were appointed as joint receivers two days after the company’­s bank accounts were frozen. It is estimated that over 200 jobs will be lost as a result.

This is the first major disruption to the Heslington East expansion project since it began over two years ago.

Over 600 students are residents at the campus­, which is the new site of Goodricke College.

The University have come under criticism for the ongoing construction work, which has not been completed in time for the influx of new students this year.

The University invested £500 million on the campus extension.

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