First of all, happy new year to you from the Federation of Small Businesses in Worcestershire. We hope that you had an enjoyable break over the festive season. We also hope that 2019 will see more stability and certainty for all of us, so that we can plan for the future and avoid any unwelcome surprises.

Talking of which, it is around this time last year that Carillion collapsed – directly affecting hundreds of small sub-contractors and thousands of workers. Hardly the best start to the year for them.

Naturally, we always hope that lessons are learned from these kind of events. We know that Carillion had a poor payments culture, in which smaller suppliers were commonly kept waiting 120 days or more for payment.

We also know that the company’s collapse highlighted the risk of putting so many taxpayer-funded contracts into the hands of a very small number of giant corporations.

Too often public sector contracts are so large, only these huge firms are in a position to tender for them. In future, more contracts should be broken into smaller components to allow smaller firms to bid for them, which will both increase competition and spread risk.

The government does have a target of 33 per cent of public procurement being awarded to small businesses by 2020. Unfortunately recent official figures suggested that little progress has been made.

Worryingly, Interserve announced a debt restructuring programme in the run up to Christmas. Interserve must not become another Carillion and, in a worst-case scenario, Interserve’s suppliers must be protected. We welcome the fact that the outsourcing giant has provided reassurances that this is its intent.

We sincerely hope that the worst case scenario is avoided and that Interserve is able to move forward successfully. However, if this cannot be achieved, the supply chain, small businesses and the taxpayers’ money must be protected. Otherwise I fear we will have learned nothing from the Carillion catastrophe from just 12 months ago.