The UK recession might be officially over, but the demolition victims continue to stack up.
I vividly remember reading a headline that said the tragic events of 9/11 would continue to claim – for years and even decades to come – the lives of New Yorkers that had ingested asbestos and other carcinogens released by the fall of the Twin Towers. Whether this was based on scientific fact, media speculation, or merely an unnecessary knee-jerk gilding of the tragedy lily, I never did figure out.
But I was reminded of this headline this weekend when I was browsing the Companies House app that I had just installed on my new iPhone.
Keen to keep a finger on the beating pulse of the industry about which I spend my every waking hour writing, I spent a few tortuous hours tagging any company that I could find with the word “demolition” in its title. Hardly scientific, I grant you, yet it did throw up several hundred companies that I can now track with a simple sweep of my thumb. But the exercise threw up way more than that.
Of the near 300 companies identified by this first sweep, more than 20 currently have a red flag against them for one reason or another. Some of them are relatively innocuous, the late submission of company accounts (Action Demolition) for example. Most, however, are far more worrying and include voluntary strike off requests (A1 Bridgeline Demolition), First Gazette listings, in administration (G Fry Demolition) and full-blown liquidations (IJ Webb Demolition & Groundworks, K&R Demolition and L&G Demolition).
There are, thankfully, no major names mired in these post-recessionary struggles; at least not according to this cursory and subjective scan of Companies House records. But each of these smaller companies represents a collective of demolition workers with skills and expertise gained over years and decades of experience and training. And while each of the companies currently flying a cautionary red flag might employ just a handful each, the cumulative effect is the further erosion of the industry’s skills base.
When the recession hit the UK demolition market in 2007 and 2008, its impact claimed several high profile victims. The reduction in workload and narrowing of margins – like the aftershocks that follow a major earthquake – claimed several more. But it appears that the belated tightening of bank borrowing rules, coupled with a dog-eat-dog marketplace in which even the biggest names are struggling for survival, will be every bit as destructive and ultimately fatal as the cancerous dust cloud that billowed through Manhattan on that fateful day in 2001.