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Birmingham Post
Birmingham Post
Jonathan Humphries & Tom Houghton

Workers 'in tears' as drylining specialist Astins ceases trading with immediate effect

Employees of a drylining specialist sub-contracted to projects across the UK has ceased trading with immediate effect.

West Sussex-based Astins Ltd had been working on big projects including the new Royal Liverpool Hospital - but on Monday, around 100 staff were asked to leave the site after the company suddenly folded.

The Liverpool Echo reported on Wednesday that workers at the firm were "in tears" after hearing the news.

One workman for a different firm said: "Around 100 lads have not been able to get through the gates, they have not been able to get their tools or anything.

"Lads have been going out all morning really upset, some have been in tears."

There have been reports a £7million legal claim on an old job forced the company to the wall, and Construction News reported its board told employees it had filed for administration on Monday.

Astins' other projects have included the Manchester Engineering Campus Development, Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire, the Quadrum Institute in Norwich and Brighton 3Ts Hospital.

Look inside The Royal Liverpool University Hospital Project pictured Atrium entrance (Colin Lane/Liverpool Echo)

The news appears to have come as a surprise to the company's employees, hospital bosses and to Laing O'Rourke - the company contracted to finish the £335million Liverpool hospital following the collapse of original builders Carillion.

The scheme has been hit by extensive delays both before and after Carillion was liquidated, and Laing O'Rourke have had to carry out extensive remedial works identified during structural surveys.

However BusinessLive understands problems caused by the failure of Astins, which was carrying out dry-lining and fire-proofing works on the new building, are not seen to be as significant as those.

A joint statement from Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Royal, and Laing O’Rourke, said: "Astins Ltd have been employed as a works contractor to carry out dry lining and fire-stopping works at The Royal Liverpool University Hospital.

"The Trust and Laing O’Rourke are discussing the best options for ensuring progress on these works is maintained.

"We appreciate that the situation at Astins means this is a difficult time for their employees and subcontractors."

In total the new building will be more than five years late - with soaring costs set to reach nearly £1.1billion according to a recent National Audit Office (NAO) report into Carillion's collapse.

Laing O'Rourke has had to strip out three floors of the building and start major work to reinforce the structure with steelwork and additional reinforced concrete.

Part of the remedial work involves replacing thousands of square meters of wrongly installed and dangerous cladding fitted onto the hospital building by Carillion.

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