THE Hampshire man at the centre of talks to save construction giant Carillion has expressed his disappointment that the firm has been plunged into liquidation.

Alan Lovell, from Bishop’s Waltham, a specialist in company restructuring, was brought in as a non-executive director to help save the struggling firm in November.

He was involved in crunch talks last weekend as Carillion, the nation’s second largest building company, sought a financial helpline from the banks and government.

“It’s disappointing that we were unable reach an agreement although we came very close,” said Mr Lovell who was credited with saving big names Costain and Dunlop Slazenger in the 1990s.

Mr Lovell, a former High Sheriff of Hampshire and chairman of Hampshire Cultural Trust, said he was aware of Carillion’s problems when he joined the board. But he added: “It’s a fantastic firm with some fine companies within it which doing business.”

Mr Lovell picked out the rail track renewal and facilities management businesses (Carillion has government contracts to help run and maintain hospitals, schools, prisons and MOD sites) as strong areas.

However, he admitted there had been failures in management.

“I don’t think any areas of the business are weak but there have been serious losses on a number of contracts that should not have occurred,” Mr Lovell said.

Following Monday morning’s news that Carillion had gone into liquidation it emerged that that firm had requested a £20m bail out from banks and government – a much smaller sum than experts had predicted in the light of the firm’s debts of £1.15 billion.

The company, which employs 20,000 staff in the UK, supplies facilities management for Winchester Prison and has its training centre in Millbrook. The centre, which trains construction apprentices, was open on Monday although no members of management were available for comment.

The Government has urged Carillion staff to keep going to work. “All employees should keep coming to work, you will continue to get paid. Staff that are engaged on public sector contracts still have important work to do,” said government minister David Lidington.

Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) chairman Mike Cherry warned that many sub contractors and suppliers could be hit by the collapse.

He said: “It is vital that Carillion’s small business suppliers are paid what they are owed, or some of those firms could themselves be put in jeopardy, putting even more jobs at risk besides those of Carillion’s employees.

“These unpaid bills may well go back several months. I wrote to Carillion in July last year to express concern after hearing from FSB members that the company was making small suppliers wait 120 days to be paid.”

Mr Cherry said there was a wider lesson to learn about the concentration of public contracts in the hands of a small number of very big businesses.

“The government should prioritise meeting its target of at least one third of taxpayer-funded contracts going to smaller firms,”he said.