Belfast Telegraph

Belfast construction firm hit by Stormont stalemate hiring again after boost in profits

By John Mulgrew

A Belfast construction and maintenance firm forced to cut dozens of jobs after losing Government contracts has posted pre-tax profits of more than £540,000.

And Dunmurry-based Maurice Flynn and Sons (MFS) is hiring new staff, as it tries to build back up its workforce after it was hit as a "direct consequence" of last year's Stormont stalemate.

Business development director Mark Spence said wrangling over the Budget last year meant it lost contracts for gully cleaning and hedge and grass cutting.

In the latest accounts for Maurice Flynn and Sons Ltd, it posted pre-tax profits of £546,000 for the year ending August 31, 2015. That follows a loss of £329,000 a year earlier. Turnover at the business fell during the year, dropping from £24.1m to £18.5m in 2015.

During the last year, the company's workforce was reduced from 292 to 210. As a result, the cost of wages and salaries at the business fell from £7.6m to £5.9m.

But according to Mr Spence, the company has now hired new staff, bringing the workforce to around 250 employees.

"What happened in those accounts, we had the Stormont stalemate. We had successfully been awarded contracts which then froze," he said.

"We are implementing new governance and IT systems, and are chasing different contracts."

The business is now developing its focus further, moving away from a reliance on public sector maintenance contracts, and developing larger private sector schemes.

"We have shifted towards capital, which have higher margins and lower overheads," he said.

"(We are) shifting the mixture of the work towards capital reflects a slight resurgence in construction."

And he said the job cuts across the firm were a "direct consequence" of the Stormont stalemate in 2015.

That included a freeze on major contracts, including road maintenance, such as grass cutting.

Mr Spence said it was a difficult period for the company, with the loss of contracts meaning some staff with 15 to 20 years experience were let go.

But job numbers have already picked up and the business is currently recruiting new workers.

"We picked up a number of new contracts in this period," Mr Spence said. That includes additional maintenance deals with health trusts and education boards.

MFS has moved from a reliance on public sector maintenance contracts - representing 80% of their business in 2015 - towards other private sector work.

He said with plans for an Invest NI-backed IT and training programme "we are a very steady ship now".

Belfast Telegraph