A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by WMS's best practice article

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 WMS is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Highlighting best practice
46 | WMS
Michael Sussex, managing
The WMS senior
management team
Starting a new business is daunting, but when Michael
Sussex established Westcountry Maintenance Services
(WMS) in October 2007, the economy was experiencing
a particularly serious downturn. Although it was a particularly
difficult time, he strongly believes this has contributed to the
successful business it is today. Starting in a recession meant
that WMS had to tailor everything to clients’ requirements,
trade keenly and keep overheads to a minimum, and, moving
forwards, they have continued to trade with these principles. He
started the business after an MBO, and was fortunate enough
to novate all previous customers across, which provided them
with a solid foundation to continue.
I started my career as a carpenter and joiner through an apprenticeship scheme,
and then continued to supervisory level before moving into management. My
understanding of site logistics and what things are like on the ground has helped
to contribute to our success. From the outset, my wife Anthea, who has extensive
experience in finance, has been our finance director, and a massive asset to the
Family values
Our approach right from the offset has been not to be the largest company, but
to aim for high standards, flexibility and quality. Our company values are honesty,
trustworthiness and a constant focus on delivery. This in turn has led to establishing
»Managing director:
»Established in 2007
»Based in southwest England
»Services: 24/7 responsive,
planned and cyclical painting
and decorating, alongside
commercial and heritage
refurbishment for local
authority bodies, housing
associations, architects and
»No. of employees: 78
»Regularly work with around
80 subcontractors
47WMS |
strong, long-term relationships with
clients, which are built on honesty and
a high level oftrust.
We aim to run WMS as a family
business by working as a team and
treating everyone as an integral part
of what we do. We are certified as
Investors in People, and the values
from this accreditation fit with exactly
how we want to run our business. We
want employees that are efficient and
can work as a team, and we endeavour
to retain these people by supporting
them and making sure they feel
valued. All management operate an
open-door policy, and are encouraged
to support their team, which provides
positive working conditions where all
employees are valued and encouraged
to develop their skills.
Employing new people can be difficult
at times, and we work with our clients
to headhunt the correct people within
the marketplace. This approach has
reaped rewards with our clients,
and together, we have been able
to continually improve what we do.
We recognise that the construction
industry workforce is generally getting
older, and the need to train more
tradesmen is of paramount importance
to our future. This is why we actively
work with local schools to support
work experience, and aim to take on at
least four apprentices eachyear.
Remaining local
It is important that we remain a local
SME contractor. Over the years, I have
seen many large organisations “talk
the talk”, but fail when it comes to
delivery. On several frameworks, we
have been the smallest contractor, but
by doing what we say and delivering a
programme both on time and within
budget, we have been able to increase
our work packages to become the
largest. Being a smaller company
means that we have a smaller chain
of command; clients know that all our
staff live within the local community,
and, therefore, we are responsible at
all times for what we deliver. At the
end of the day, I always try to remain
This also means that the cashflow
stays within the local community.
Planning a job
It is important
that we remain
a local SME
contractor. Over
the years, I have
seen many large
‘talk the talk’
but fail when it
comes to
Highlighting best practice
48 | WMS
When we work in our area, 63p in
the pound goes into the regional
economy, as opposed to 40p when a
national company carries out contracts.
We actively look to support local
subcontractors and suppliers. If we win
a new tender, we work with our clients
to use smaller subcontractors, taking
them under our umbrella, offering
programmes such as health and safety
training. We also inform them about
preferred payment schemes, which,
in turn, help them to take on larger
contracts and grow their business.
We are always keen to support local
projects and organisations. Social value
is a vitally important part of what we
can provide, and, currently, we are
supporting a number of projects either
for the associations we are working
with, or local community projects such
as the Mayflower 400-year celebration
bonfire in 2020, hosted by the Great
Torrington Cavaliers.
Going forwards
It is important that we take on projects
that fit with our skill set. While
we are always striving to find new
opportunities within the marketplace,
it is important that we do what we
are best at. We always need to evolve,
challenge ourselves and look to
innovate further, but by delivering on
familiar projects, we have grown year
on year when the funding available
has diminished through social housing
Having this ethos has set us apart from
many competitors as one of the best
providers for social housing and local
authorities within the South West.
Recently, we have started to take on
larger one-off refurbishment projects,
such as working in Great Torrington
to refurbish the town hall through
a grant-aided project supported by
the National Lottery. In 2015, we
diversified slightly by purchasing a
specialist painting company, Williams
and Martin, based in Cornwall. This
has strengthened our existing painting
skill set and capabilities in the county.
Have we been successful? I think so.
In 2007, we employed six people, and
achieved a turnover of over £2 million;
this year, however, our workforce is 78
strong, and we expect our revenue to
reach £10 million. More importantly,
we have put ourselves in a position to
take on larger projects and support our
existing clients in all areas of our work,
whether a contract is commercial,
residential or heritage, whether it’s
refurbishment, painting or decorating.
We’re now operating throughout
the South West with a dedicated
workforce supported by a strong
management team. This growth is
against industry standards and bucking
the trend of our local economy. This
is something I am personally very
proud of, and I look forward eagerly to
another ten years of WMS thriving.
While we are
always striving
to find new
within the
it is important
that we do
what we are
best at
WMS team at work


This article was sponsored by WMS. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

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.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy