Contracting in Birmingham

Widely regarded as England’s ‘second city’, Birmingham sits in the heart of the country surrounded by commerce, as well as by countryside. The city is home to a population of over a million people, with the greater metropolitan area housing almost four million residents.

Birmingham is a vibrant place to live and work, and in recent years massive rejuvenation has completely transformed the city centre. There are canal-side developments like Brindley Place, with its many restaurants and bars, and retail developments such as the new Bullring and the Mailbox. The city has a lively and diverse nightlife, as well as many parks and open spaces to enjoy - and is also close to the countryside of Warwickshire, Derbyshire and the Cotswolds. It is also home to the Birmingham Royal Ballet and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), as well as many museums, theatres and art galleries.

Partly due to its central location, Birmingham has become a major transport hub. There are a number of international airports within an hour’s drive, the largest of these being Birmingham International which handles around ten million passengers annually. Along with major rail and road connections, the National Exhibition Centre, the International Convention Centre and the country’s busiest shopping centre - it’s not hard to see why the city was voted as one of the best places to locate a business in the United Kingdom.

Major companies
Despite being at the heart of the industrial revolution in the UK two hundred years ago, Birmingham’s economy is today dominated by the service sector. Both the Lloyds and Midland Banks were founded in the city, and today over 100,000 people are still employed within the banking, finance and insurance sectors in the city.

The NHS is also a large employer, with Birmingham Children’s Hospital being a major healthcare centre for the area, along with University Hospitals Birmingham and Birmingham Heartlands and Solihull NHS Trust. In addition to this, there are also a number of other key industry sectors which are prevalent, including the construction and leisure industries. These are some of the key employers in the area:

By far the biggest private company in the area, GKN further enhanced its position with the purchase of fellow infrastructure services company Alfred McAlpine in a deal worth £572 million. The deal created one of the UK’s largest construction and support services companies, with an aggregate revenue approaching £5 billion - and hence a wide range of contractor opportunities!

Another of the country’s major construction and support services companies, Carillion employs around 50,000 people across five continents. Its portfolio of work covers health, education and regeneration, road, rail, defence and commercial property. Back in 1996, the company committed to form a private finance business and has been involved in some of the largest and most innovative transactions since this ‘Private Finance Initiative’ was instigated.

Zurich Insurance
Zurich Financial Services Group is an insurance-based financial services provider with a global network of subsidiaries and offices in North America and Europe as well as in Asia Pacific, Latin America and other markets. It’s UK head office is located in Edgbaston, just outside Birmingham.
Founded in 1872, the Group employs approximately 60,000 people serving customers in more than 170 countries. Its customers benefit from the company’s ability to underwrite and provide services on many fronts, and from the combination of international expertise, global strength and detailed local knowledge.

Mitchells and Butlers
Better known for its Harvester and Toby brands, Mitchells & Butlers plc is the leading operator of managed pubs and pub restaurants in the UK and has its Head Offices offices on Fleet Street in Birmingham. It has an asset value of around £4.5 billion and its chain of public houses and restaurants account for 10% of the industry’s total sales.

Major industries
• Banking and Finance
• Insurance
• Construction
• Healthcare
• Leisure

Local newspapers
There are a number of quality, daily local newspapers in the area, the best read ones probably being the Birmingham Post and the Trinity Mirror Group-owned Birmingham Mail. Many of these also have useful websites as well.

Typical rates of pay
Typical rates of pay for contractors will of course vary depending on any individual’s skill-set, but as an example, an IT Consultant or Analyst could expect to earn £400 per day on average before tax in a Birmingham-based job, whilst a developer or programmer for example is probably looking at around the £300 to £350 mark. For typical rates of pay in the Midlands across a variety of skill sets visit our contractor rates of pay page.

Ones to watch
Birmingham has an aspiration to be in the top 20 ‘most liveable cities in the world’ within 20 years and it is estimated that this will cost around £17 billion to achieve. A proportion of which will of course be spent on contractor services across a wide range of areas! These ambitious plans, known collectively as the ‘Big City Plan’ will increase the city centre area fivefold, providing 60,000 new homes, many new landmark buildings and the first new park in the city for 125 years.

The Big City Plan is a ‘single spatial strategy’ for Birmingham’s city centre which is currently under way and aims to further regenerate the city. This large redevelopment plan is being championed by Council Leader Mike Whitby and led by the City Council’s Director of Regeneration, Waheed Nazir.
Visioning work and a public consultations period is complete and the Master Plan is due for publication in the Summer of 2010. This will turn the concepts and objectives into reality, through focusing on the delivery of several key regeneration projects of national importance - including New Street Station, the Southern Gateway, the Library of Birmingham, Paradise Circus and others, through a coordinated approach.

The Master Plan will be underpinned by a City Centre Transport Vision and Strategy jointly prepared by the City Council, Cento and the Business Improvement Districts, Interconnect Birmingham – a comprehensive City Centre signing and interpretation system, and the Retail Birmingham Design Strategy – for improving the identity and connectivity of the City Centre’s retail district. Working in partnership with both private sector and public sector organisations, the Master Plan will cover key redevelopment opportunities and provide a ‘coherent approach to connectivity, permeability, accessibility and legibility’ for the City Centre.

So all in all a great opportunity for contractors, with so many projects kicking off over the coming months. Make sure you keep an eye on what’s going on!

Things to consider about contracting in Birmingham


  • Very good road and rail links, especially to London, plus a large international airport nearby
  • Diverse range of industries
  • Excellent social life, with lower cost of living


  • Despite regeneration, for some Birmingham still has a rather 'industrial' and ‘urban’ image
  • Pay rates lower than in the South

For information on other regional contracting guides, see the links below (we will be adding more guides over time):

Contracting in Aberdeen
Contracting in Edinburgh and Glasgow
Contracting in Newcastle
Contracting in London
Contracting in Reading and Guildford
Contracting in Milton Keynes
Contracting in Manchester, Liverpool and the North West
Contracting in Bristol, Bath, Cardiff

If you have any questions about contracting or would like any further advice please call our new business team on 01442 275789 or e-mail: