ContractorUK Readers' Awards 2012: the winners

The winners of the 6th annual ContractorUK Readers’ Awards, sponsored by professional indemnity insurer Hiscox, are announced today, with a line-up including Aston Carter, SJD Accountancy, Lloyds, PayStream and a forum contributor dubbed ‘AtW.’

The identities of the winners emerged after the website’s readers and forum members voted in their thousands during December 2012 to pick their marketplace heroes of the year.

Some of the winners - and runners-up - have never before been in the running for a CUK Readers’ Award. Others are stalwarts of the IT contracting space and have retained their crown or, in the category of CUK Forum Personality, have lost it (sorry northernladuk!).

Either way, the awards remain a barometer of IT contracting (since being introduced in 2006), offering newcomers and veteran contractors alike a comprehensive rundown of the very best service providers to freelance IT professionals.

Not for the first time in the company’s history, one firm wins two CUK Readers’ Awards for its service in 2012: the ‘Best Umbrella Company’ for IT contractors is PayStream, and the Cheshire-based firm is also the runner-up (voted second) in the best accountant category.

PayStream’s managing director Paul Malley reflected last night: “Being voted CUK’s best umbrella for 2012 and achieving runner-up in the best accountant category for the second year running is a tremendous accolade and a reflection of our drive to deliver great service to our customers. 

“During the year we have implemented a number of service enhancements as requested directly by our customers…We would like to thank the ContractorUK readership for taking the time to vote for us, and look forward to building on this success further in the future.”

The firm’s win is impressive because, aside from improving on its position in the 2011 awards, the umbrella category involved more than a dozen separate payroll providers. They include former winner ContractorUmbrella, which came in as the second best umbrella company of 2012, and Simplify – a newcomer to the awards, voted the third best.

In fact, only the vote for ‘Best Accountancy’ firm of 2012 for IT contractors was more competitive – a category which saw more than 20 firms nominated, but none more frequently than SJD Accountancy, which wins the title for the sixth year in a row.   

“Of all the awards we win, this is the one I get really excited about,” said Simon Dolan, founder and managing director of SJD Accountancy.

“I am so pleased we have won the CUK award again this year as it comes from the people who matter the most - our clients. A really heartfelt thank you to everyone that voted for us.”

Nixon Williams is the third best accountancy firm for IT contractors, the vote shows, ahead of other well-known contractor accountants, including JSA, Plan IT and Capital City Accountancy, all of whom were outside the top three yet still won compliments from CUK readers for their services.

Meanwhile, Aston Carter is the ‘Best Recruitment Agency’ – commended for its sheer volume and diversity of IT contracts, followed closely by FTSE-listed recruiter Hays IT, a former winner, which is being chased by Capita, voted the third best agency of 2012. Hudson and Spring were also endorsed.

Best client of 2012 for IT contractors is awarded to Lloyds, the part-nationalised bank, in spite of its 'take it or leave’ pay rate reduction in January. The lender takes the award off another bank and last year’s ‘best client’ HSBC, now in second place, above AMEX, the US credit card group, voted third.

Other giants even more synonymous with IT contracting jostled for ‘Best Job board’ – a new category in the 2012 awards. Jobserve is the winner; Technojobs.co.uk is the runner-up and CW Jobs takes bronze. 

Helen Bayram, of Technojobs commented: "Contracting is such a big and active area within IT, so we are so pleased that contractors have recognised our easy-to-use service and the wide choice of roles we have on offer."

On such IT job sites, Project Management (‘PM’) is the most likely skill a CUK reader looks to contract with, followed closely by Business Analysis or ‘BA’ – not to be confused with other responses CUK readers gave as their primary skill, such as “BS-ing!” and “Bluffing!”  

For news, ContractorUK is their primary source – beating professional networking site LinkedIn and trade body PCG. And for their social networking, it’s a mixture of Facebook and Twitter, but trouncing them both is LinkedIn.

However contractors aren’t visiting CUK just to read the front-page. A thread on the website’s forum where word associations are simply exchanged between members has racked up close to one million unique page-views. Thanks to the instant light relief it provides, ‘Word Associations’ scoops ‘Most Entertaining Forum Thread’ of 2012.

And it seems fitting that such a popular thread was created by AtW – who CUK readers have voted ‘Forum Personality’ of 2012. Judge and jury of all threads on the forum, Administrator, welcomed the news.

“AtW is known for his cutting and insightful commentary on the world of banking and finance, his mastery of the housing market and his love of squirrels,” admin said. 

“Lauded and ridiculed in equal measure on the forum over the years, AtW has proved his critics wrong by turning his Plan B into Plan A - a global company that is a household name in internet marketing circles. His hard work and undoubted technical ability has spawned a monster. We salute you!”

BrilloPad and northernladuk were joint runners-up in the forum personality category – the former for his super-human endurance outside of IT as an ‘Ironman’ athlete, and the latter because of his reliably no-nonsense, unforgiving approach to forum newcomers.

Administrator reflected: “Northenladuk’s crown may have fallen this year but we are confident that his no-holds-barred advice will make him a challenger for the title again in 2013.

“Thank you to all the forum contributors - the level of support and help given to the contracting community in 2012 was as superb as ever.”

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