Wales

Kier Group cash call prompts Powys councillors' concern

Construction worker Image copyright Fairfax Media / Getty Images
Image caption Kier maintains more than 6,000 properties in a joint venture with Powys County Council

Opposition councillors in Powys want assurances about the viability of a company responsible for council house repairs amid concern about its debts.

Kier is the county council's partner in Heart of Wales Property Services, and is also handling the refurbishment of Brecknock Museum in Brecon.

Last month Kier announced an emergency plan to raise £264m to cut its £600m debt and strengthen the company.

The Kier Group said it was still aiming to "win new business".

A Powys officer said responses would be given to the full council in January.

Heart of Wales Property Services (HOWPS) looks after 5,400 homes and 630 other properties in the county.

The joint venture was launched in July 2017 when 109 council employees were transferred to Kier.

'People not profits'

Plaid Cymru group leader Elwyn Vaughan said he wanted assurances that Kier was still a "viable entity".

"In recent months we have seen a major outsourcing company, Carillion, going to the wall and another company, Interserve, in severe difficulty," he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Labour group leader Matthew Dorrance said he was unhappy that the ruling independent/Conservative coalition had rejected a plan to allow greater scrutiny of the work of HOWPS.

He said his party wanted to ensure the joint venture "serves the people of Powys, not profit margins".

Kier Group chief executive Hadyn Mursell said the attempt to raise cash from existing shareholders had been prompted by a "change of sentiment" in the financial markets over lending to the UK construction sector.

He wanted to "better position Kier to continue to win new business and further strengthen our market-leading positions".

Nigel Brinn, director of environment at Powys and a member of the HOWPS board, said: "We can confirm that the council has received formal questions regarding Kier and that responses will be provided at a meeting of the full council in January."

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