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Gloucestershire Business News

330 jobs go as Gloucestershire engineering firm 'ceases trading'

A major Gloucestershire civil engineering firm - involved in the roll out of superfast broadband across the county - has gone bust with the loss of 330 jobs.

Complete Utilities, number 42 in the Punchline Top 100 Gloucestershire employers, had its base at Overton Farm in Maisemore, near Gloucester.

The firm was providing the labour and construction know-how for telecoms company Gigaclear which won the contract to bring ultrafast broadband to rural properties - recently increased to a total of 75,000 across Gloucestershire.

Complete Utilities managing director Steve Chaplin started the company in 1991 with a single digger and later switched the focus to maintaining utility networks, with a fleet of more than 150 excavators and specialist equipment.

But the last company results filed on 29th July 2021, for the year ending 31st July 2020, showed operating profits had fallen from £3.7 million to £500,000. Turnover was down from £34 million to just under £30 million.

Steve Chaplin, managing director, reported: "The decrease was mainly due to the suspension of work on some contracts due to the lockdown imposed following the Covid-19 outbreak."

Today, the company's website was down and there was no response from anyone at the head office.

On 19th July this year, there was a fire at the Maisemore depot which destroyed a number of vehicles. Local residents were shocked to hear an explosion and see palls of smoke. In all, four lorries and two vans were caught in the blaze.

The Fastershire project - launched in 2015 - is a partnership between Gloucestershire County Council, Herefordshire Council and internet service providers including Gigaclear.

It was scheduled to be completed in September 2022, increasing coverage in the county to an estimated 97 per cent. The collapse of Complete Utilities may now delay this date.

A spokesman for Gigaclear said: "We were notified on Sunday 31st October 2021 that Complete Utilities Ltd, one of our partners working with us to deliver ultrafast broadband across Herefordshire and Gloucestershire, were to cease trading with immediate effect.

"Complete Utilities Ltd have been good partners to us in the region since the start of our activity in 2015 and were still under contract with Gigaclear for existing and a future pipeline of work. We are assessing the impact and are in the process of transferring commitments to other contractors in the region. We have begun communicating to stakeholders and residents."

Gigaclear designs, builds and operates a full fibre, ultrafast broadband network in rural areas across central and southern England. Established in 2010, its network now reaches more than 200 communities across 20 counties.

Cllr Philip Robinson, cabinet member for economy, education and skills at Gloucestershire County Council, said: "We are aware that Gigaclear's contractors, Complete Utilities, have sadly ceased trading with immediate effect. With our Fastershire partners Herefordshire Council and Gigaclear we are actively working to manage the consequences this will have on our current projects.

"We are also looking into how we can offer support to the employees of Complete Utilities following this news."

Many who worked for the company or in related businesses took to LinkedIn to voice their sadness and shock at the company's demise.

Josh Cook, Fibre Project manager at Complete Utilities, said: "Following the recent sad news surrounding Complete Utilities, I'd like to thank the company and everyone who has managed and mentored me, for all the opportunities I've been given."

Ashley Stevens, Project Manager at Gigaclear, said : "Such devastating news for Complete Utilities. They have been instrumental in achieving what the west region has achieved at Gigaclear."

Shane Barber, Operations Manager at another company, Rochester Utilities Ltd, said: "Always sad when firms go out of business as it impacts people who knew nothing about the firm's finances."

Ross Bowen, director at Bowen Groundworks & Utilities Ltd, said: "As a business owner, I have been devastated by the news about Complete Utilities. This has not only shaken the Welsh utility industry but also most of the groundworks and utilities industry, too.

"As an industry, we must pull together in an attempt to alleviate some of the pressure and pain faced by workers and other industries at this very difficult time. We will do our best to accommodate."

Punchline Gloucester has reported extensively on the rising cost pressures on the construction sector - from cement to plant hire. Complete Utilities had achieved a huge rise since its founding and it is always sad to see a company go under. The knock-on effect will be felt across the industry locally and in the current climate the firm may not be the last victim of these difficult economic conditions.

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