Column Eight: Builder sick as a Barratt

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HOUSEBUILDERS may be growing daily more desperate to kickstart the housing market but, it seems, there are limits. John O'Brien, a 29-year old Londoner, was attracted by Barratt's offer to pay his mortgage for six months and signed up for a pounds 73,000 flat. He then arranged a pounds 65,000 mortgage with Lloyds Bank . . . repayable over one year.

Ingenious? Barratt was not amused when it discovered that its repayments over those six months would come to pounds 5,761.50 a month and refused to exchange contracts. This despite its previous written confirmation that the offer was not dependent on the terms of the mortgage.

Mr O'Brien, however, has not let it rest there, issuing a County Court summons demanding pounds 34,569 - the amount Barratt would have had to pay. Barratt intends to 'vigorously defend' itself.

GOSH IT'S hard to change the corporate culture at a big company like British Aerospace. BAe's new chairman, John Cahill, used to the no- frills climate at BTR, recently arranged a business trip to Japan, booking himself a ticket with his regular travel agent.

Shortly before his departure, he was approached by a subordinate wanting to discuss the arrangements. 'What arrangements - the ticket is booked, what's the problem?' he reportedly inquired. Sadly history does not record Mr Cahill's reaction when he was told that there were no fewer than 16 BAe officials going with him. He apparently felt quite capable of doing the business on his own.

ARMCHAIR spectators of athletics are well-used to trackside interviews with victorious sprinters sweating and breathless from their races. Their commonest remark is probably: 'It's all about getting it together on the day' closely followed by, 'I want to thank my mum/dad/coach/ God'. Yesterday Sally Gunnell's 'I love you all' list after coming first in the Olympic 400m hurdles included an honourable mention for her employer - the accountancy firm Pannell Kerr Foster. Great advertisement.

CITY HACKS are used to the 'He's in a meeting' routine when trying to get through to grill Britain's business leaders. But yesterday we were informed that Peter Robinson - the man holding the fort at Britain's third-biggest building society, the Woolwich - couldn't come to the phone because he was 'in the gym'. Impressed? We were.