The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Ash Contracting is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.
Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles
29ASH CONTRACTING |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE 2019
Guildford High School
Ash Contracting is a privately owned construction
company based in Kent and Surrey, making it perfectly
located to deliver construction services to the South
East. The company, founded in 2004, starting with only
handful of employees but now has over 50. Managing Director
Dean Cooper says they are the company’s biggest asset. Ash
invests in them by providing the opportunities and support
they need to develop their skills. Consistency of personnel and
purpose has been key to the company’s success. Dean offers
a more thorough insight into the company.
The projects we undertake range in both size and complexity, which typically can
be from a £100,000 Grade ll listed building restoration to a £6 million commercial
new build. Our expertise is in the commercial, ecclesiastical, educational, leisure
and healthcare sectors. We have found the following principles to be driving forces
to our success:
»A happy, professional and talented staff team;
»A consistent, coherent and honest approach and ethos in our dealings with clients;
»A passion for delivering first-class projects;
»Good cash flow and only working for clients that have first-rate credit profiles;
»Putting clients’ needs first;
»Treating our supply chain fairly and paying within agreed timescales; and
»Consideration of and adherence to environmental and legal issues at all times.
»Founded in 2004
»Based in Kent and Surrey
»No. of employees: 50
»Projected turnover in 2018/19
of £20 million
»ISO 9001 and Constructionline
»Clients include the University
of Surrey, Addison Lee, the
NHS and many more
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
30 | ASH CONTRACTING
Going for gold
We want to fight the fight and win the
race. Practically, that means delivering
and exceeding clients’ expectations
and encouraging long-term
relationships that deliver negotiated
work, constructing buildings that are
a pleasure to live or work in and that
stand the test of time.
We all deserve to go to work and enjoy
what we do. We should enjoy good
relationships with those around us and
feel that we are part of a team making
a difference – but most importantly,
we should come home safely at the
end of the day. No matter what the
environment and the challenges it
brings, we aim to make the workplace
and the processes an experience that
enrichesall participants in the project
and leaves clients and consultants
wanting to work with the team again.
At a macro level, the three greatest
challenges we face are:
»Ensuring that we do not work for
unscrupulous or cash-short clients;
»The vagaries of the tender process
and therefore winning new
»Building safe buildings and building
safely, ensuring that we do not
unwittingly construct inbuilt failures.
On the first count, know the client
and risk assess them. Questions that
should arise at this stage include the
following: Do they have sufficient
funds and can they afford the project?
How do they project themselves?
Are they a long- or short-term client?
Does that fit in with our business view
of ethics and team players? Are they
known for litigation? Are they loyal to
their consultants and collaborative?
If there are any serious shortcomings
with regard to these questions, then
there is no benefit in tendering.
On the second challenge, as a strategy,
we have learnt through painful
experience that we must risk assess
tenders. The questions to ask include:
Is the client someone we wish to work
for? Where is the work? What are the
payment terms? Is the work within our
skillset? Do we have a supply chain
that can resource the work? Do we like
the work and the client – what is our
To a degree, this is counter-intuitive
in the construction industry because,
A dedicated team
Our Lady of Lourdes,
31ASH CONTRACTING |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE 2019
as builders, we do not ask too many
questions: We simply price it, and if
we win it, we build it. This, however,
is a misguided approach. We instead
risk assess the project. We score the
project, and if we win it, we look for
the reasons why we won it. After
then having reassessed the project,
we commence if that is appropriate.
Tendering can be very unsatisfactory in
the final analysis for the tenderer – a
client and a project won at a loss can
have a huge effect on a company’s
viability and longevity.
The third but not least challenge is
constructing safely and understanding
the burden of fit-for-purpose
compliance with the Building
Regulations and British Standards, as
well as the duty of care. The greatest
risk is in the design and build context.
In this regard, Grenfell is a wake-up
call for the entire industry and the
community at large. A light has been
shone at all levels, and I am sure that,
in the final analysis, failures will be
evident throughout the regulatory and
At a far less tragic level, contractors are
heavily at risk from building in errors
of design or workmanship. No matter
who is responsible, the rectification
of faults can result in costs that are
not in any way sustainable. Therefore,
we must continuously train our team,
employ competent consultants,
have quality control procedures
and not allow substandard work to
All of this does not sit well when
the lowest price comes first. In many
senses, the construction industry gets
what it deserves – it bids us to fly but
gives us no wings.
Where Ash has benefited and must
continue to do so is that the Ash
brand is recognised for its delivery
and outcomes – the reward for
which is an increased share of
The three rules
1. Work with first-class clients;
2. Risk assess tenders and reassess
them before signing a contract (or,
better still, negotiate); and
3. Build it right!
The strategy for the future is to build
on what we have achieved, to develop
a business plan that will enable us to
build on our education expertise and
expand in the healthcare and leisure
sectors and to target growing markets
in a structured way by employing
talented people to lead us forward.
Finding the right people is very
difficult: The skills shortage is real.
This is why, in addition to skilled and
experienced employees, we also do
everything we can to employ young
people, including apprentices. We
then mentor them to encourage them
to have a full understanding of the
industry: the highs and lows, the risks
and rewards. Ultimately, it comes back
to this: our staff are our biggest asset.
School were so
Ash on phase 1
them on phase
2. We regularly
put Ash on
tender lists and
Sarah Waterfield – Lytle
High Weald House,
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review
This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.
In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.
We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.
With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.
And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.
As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.