Belfast Telegraph

Major job losses feared at troubled construction firm

By Margaret Canning

Major redundancies are expected at Patton Group after administrators were appointed to the construction firm, it has emerged.

The Belfast Telegraph understands that “significant” cuts to the 320 staff at the Ballymena-based family business are expected soon.

Administrators Keenan CF are now negotiating with other customers on whether work can be continued and is still working with Patton’s existing management team.

But it’s understood difficulties surrounding the transfer of contracts and in securing a sale of any or part of the business mean that redundancies will be made.

One Scottish contractor has said he is not hopeful of being repaid around £360,000 which he is owed for work on Lews Castle in Stornoway, Scotland.

Neil Mackay said he had already had to lay off some staff as a result of the crisis. The non-payment “will not destroy us but it is not good,” he said.

Chairman Neil Patton announced the appointment of administrators on Tuesday and said every effort had been made to avoid the move.

But he said it was “inevitable because of the general downturn in the building sector, pressure on margins and the resultant impact on cashflow”.

Meanwhile, a retired minister has praised former company chairman David Patton — Neil’s father — for rebuilding a Ballymena church building despite the Presbyterian Church’s financial problems.

Patton had successfully tendered for the million-pound rebuild of Wellington Presbyterian Church, but the project was almost derailed by the collapse of the Presbyterian Mutual Society (PMS) in 2008.

Rev Norman Brown said the church had been set to borrow £1.5m from the PMS to pay for the rebuild when the crisis hit.

But he said David Patton ordered work to continue despite the church’s financial difficulties.

Speaking about the company’s difficulties, Rev Brown said: “I have sent David an email to say how disappointed and saddened I am with what happened.”

He said he would always be grateful to Mr Patton for his understanding of their financial position — though eventually the Church was able to borrow money from Ulster Bank.

“He could have pulled the plug but he stuck with us.

“We owe him a great debt of gratitude,” he said.

Background

Originally a house-building firm, Patton branched out into shop and museum refurbishment with many contracts in England and Scotland. While it has had a turnover of around £140m so far this year, it suffered a loss of £5m last year due to the falling value of its landbank. Previous restructuring efforts and the liquidation of a subsidiary also cost it £3m.

Belfast Telegraph

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