4  The More We Are Together

Housebuilding firms, as well as acquiring a near monopoly over the land available for new housing, also have a habit of taking each other over. In February Barratts became the country's biggest housebuilder by taking over Wilson Bowden, fighting off a rival bid from Wimpey. But their triumph was short-lived. A month later Wimpey fended off Persimmon to swallow up Taylor Woodrow making them the biggest firm. Who will Persimmon take over to regain their position as Britain's No 1 builder, which they acquired through the purchase of Westbury homes in 2005?

Nation's Local Builder

At the other end of the spectrum there are still thousands of small building firms, jobbing craftsmen and self-employed contractors. But for how much longer? A firm called ROK, which describes itself as "the nation's local builder" is swallowing up local and regional builders at breakneck speed. In early September ROK took over Yorkshire firm, S Harrison; in mid-September it acquired Aquilo, a firm specializing in building damage claims; and towards the end of the month it bought plumbing and electrical services firm, Avonside. According to Building Newsletter, by March 2007, ROK had become the UK's second largest contractor, after Bovis. ROK's boss, Garvis Snook announced: "The acquisition provides a strong platform from which to extend our plumbing, heating and electrical services across the rest of the UK in our pursuit of becoming the Nation's Local Builder."

Perhaps Persimmon will take over ROK, giving it control over the local building industry in the same way that Tesco Express wants to be come the "nation's local shop".

– from The Land 4, Winter 2007-8


Henry Simon made this grand observation which still afflicts us today:

"The mistake…lies in fearing money and trusting debt. Money itself is highly amenable to democratic, legislative control, for no community wants a markedly appreciating or depreciating currency…but money is not easily manageable alongside a mass of private debt and private near-moneys…or alongside a mountain of public debt."

– p. 199, Simon’s Economic Policy for a Free Society (1948)