The ContractorUK Reader Awards 2017 go to…

The ContractorUK Reader Awards 2017 -- announced today -- were the biggest ever!

Votes you cast for your contracting favourites between December 5th and December 20th 2017, smashed the previous year’s total by an unprecedented 30 per cent.

Sponsored by professional indemnity insurer Hiscox, the awards were the first to take place since the divisive root-and-branch reform of IR35 in the public sector.

Three awards in one go

The 2017 awards are also the first since ContractorUK launched them in 2006 to witness a single company -- The Optionis Group -- pick up not one; not two but three separate awards.

So the group’s SJD Accountancy scoops ‘Best Contractor Accountant (large),’ a title SJD has won every year, and one which it now retains since joining the group in early 2017.

In the same category, ClearSky Accounting wins a “commendation” from ContractorUK readers, bestowing it the brand new title -- third ‘Best Contractor Accountant (large).’

Parasol, also part of Optionis and set up by a former contractor wins a commendation too, in the shape of the accolade third ‘Best Umbrella Company.’

“Our brands span a range of specialisms, [but] they are each united with one common goal; to make the lives of our clients as easy as possible,” said Optionis CEO Derek Kelly.

“We’re therefore very proud that…the talents of our 600-strong head office team have been recognised across the industry with our three accolades”.

Awards Summary

  • The 2017 awards saw one firm scoop three awards -- a first in the awards’ history
  • It is the first awards since IR35 public sector reform
  • Previous and repeat winners dominate, incl. those with IR35 expertise
  • There is a reversal of winners in the small/medium contractor accountancy category
  • Capita loses both the accolades it scooped last year
  • New category of ‘best contractor tax software provider’ went down to the wire
  • The awards are sponsored by professional indemnity insurer Hiscox.


Until now, winning more than one award from ContractorUK readers in a single awards contest was the preserve of PayStream, and also thanks to its 2016 performance, Capita.

But Capita misses out this year as it has failed to win enough votes to keep either of its titles (‘best training firm,’ ‘best recruiter’). PayStream prevailed however, retaining its two titles.

So the Manchester-based firm is again ‘Runner-Up’ in the Best Contractor Accountant (large) category, and is again ‘Winner’ in the ‘Best Umbrella Company’ category.

"We are delighted", reflected PayStream managing director Paul Malley. "This is the fourth time that we have been voted best Umbrella Company and the sixth time as the Best Large Contractor Accountant runner-up.

"It's great to see that our focus on delivering excellent customer service has been recognised by contractors across the UK and I am proud of all the PayStream team for their hard work, positive attitude and ongoing commitment in ensuring that we consistently deliver outstanding service to our customers."


Changing of the guard

Hanging on to such a title in the competitive contractor market is no mean feat. In the ‘Best Contractor Accountant (small/medium)’ category, inniAccounts was just shy of pulling it off.

Yet only due to fierce competition, it seems, as 2016’s ‘Runner-up’ -- The Accounting Crew has now usurped inni as the second ‘Best Contractor Accountant (small/medium)’ of 2017.

Despite the obvious competitiveness in the market – or perhaps because of it, each firm welcomed their respective acknowledgements from ContractorUK readers.

“After being named AccountingWeb's Practice Excellence Pioneer, and now being commended by ContractorUK, we've rounded out a brilliant year for awards for excellent service,” said inni boss James Poyser.

The Keyte brothers, Darryl and Rowan who set up ‘The Crew’ reflected: “We are truly humbled to have our efforts in supporting the freelancing market recognised in this way.

“Our dedicated team is encouraged to go beyond ‘normal’ in delivering a service that we can be proud of and one that our clients expect from their accountant. We will keep working at becoming more innovative and efficient”.

Hanging onto gold crowns

The winner of the category is Intouch Accounting. For the second consecutive year, ContractorUK readers convincingly voted it ‘Best Contractor Accountant (small/medium).’

Andrew Fahey, managing director of Brookson One -- which recently acquired Intouch said: “This win is testament to the great service provided by the team at Intouch who put the client experience at the heart of everything they do.

“I’m delighted to welcome Intouch to the Brookson Group and this award just re-affirms our plans for Intouch to remain a stand-alone business with no change to this high service ethos. Thank you to all…who voted this year”.

Another firm which ContractorUK readers have decided must continue wearing its golden crown is Hays IT. The FTSE-listed firm is re-voted ‘Best Recruitment Agency.’

“To win this award for the fifth year running is a great achievement,” says Hays IT director James Milligan.

“We’re delighted that the readers of ContractorUK continue to recognise the expert advice we offer and the work we provide for IT contractors. Thank you to everyone who voted for us”.

The First of a Few Newcomers

Two additional agencies were acknowledged by ContractorUK readers -- Computer Futures, voted Runner-Up as ‘Best Recruitment Agency,’ and Experis, commended as the third best.

The latter, a newcomer to the awards, is a contrast to two other companies that the readers credited, because while they too provide IT contractor placements, the two are repeat winners.

JobServe, set up by an IT contractor wins ‘Best Jobsite,’ a title it retains again but only just, as the runner-up -- -- came very close this year to beating it into second place.

“Technojobs are so pleased to be recognised by readers of ContractorUK, much as we were glad to be in both 2016 and 2015,” says the website’s managing director Anthony Sherick.

“We hope the recognition is because we work hard to put thousands of contracts live to make sure contracting is our key focus. This recognition is great -- thanks to all who voted for us.”

Other award regulars return, prevail

HSBC is also a regular at the ContractorUK Reader Awards. This year is no exception as it retains ‘Best Client,’ trumping the runner-up and second best, Jaguar Land Rover.

While the accolade for the UK’s biggest car-maker is impressive (it takes it off IT wage-rich Barclays), it is the support that contractors showed to HSBC which seems more remarkable.

In January 2017, the bank got rid of hundreds of IT jobs by sending them offshore, and hitting IT contractors further in August, it eliminated more than 200 temporary IT jobs.

Similarly staying on top of its game in the eyes of ContractorUK readers is The Learning People, a Brighton-based company which is voted 2017’s ‘Best Training Provider.’

It triumphs over QA, a winner in 2015 but this year’s Runner-Up. The Learning People’s CEO Patrick Aylmer says his company is “honoured and delighted” to be victorious again.

He added: “[This award from ContractorUK readers is] an achievement that highlights our commitment to delivering great career outcomes for professionals within the IT industry.”

Top spot, New spots

Likely hoping to hit that “top spot” next year is giant group, voted Runner-Up in the previous awards -- and voted Runner-Up this year too, meaning it remains the second-best brolly.

An equally respectable silver medal in the new category of ‘Best Accounting Software Provider’ is to be “proudly” worn by cloud accountancy firm FreeAgent.

“We’ve worked hard to create an intuitive software system that really helps contractors and micro-businesses manage their accounts effectively,” says the firm’s CEO Ed Molyneux.

“So we’re very proud to hear that our customers have recognised us. From day one, our mission has been to make people feel in control of their day-to-day business accounts, relax about tax and work more effectively with their accountants.”

But software giant Sage One Accounting wins this hard-fought category, saying it is “delighted” to lift the title ‘Best Accounting Software Provider.’ And it only did so in the final few hours of voting.

Sage’s UK and Ireland managing director Alan Laing also said: “Cloud technologies are becoming increasingly prominent in modern businesses.

“Sage Business Cloud offers our customers the vital accounting tools they need to manage their finances effectively and efficiently.”

The other recently introduced category in the awards is ‘Best Financial Service Provider.’ As it did in the category’s debut year, Cater Allen received a lot of votes.

But in 2017, the bank slips from ‘Winner’ and is now ‘Runner-Up’ -- still creditable but reflective of being outvoted by an awards first-timer -- Cashplus Business Accounts.

“[We’re] delighted and extremely proud to receive this award,” says Nick Biggam, commercial director at Cashplus.

“Providing online business current accounts for contractors is a very important part of our business and to be recognised by customers for the unique service we provide in this area is fantastic.”

From the Forum

The accounts provider will want to emulate the track-record of another victor also showing ‘Accounts’ in their name, but unless the provider joins the ContractorUK Forum, a clash isn’t likely.

“It’s a fantastic achievement to receive the award for Best Forum Adviser two years in a row,” said Darren@Dynamo Accounts, retaining his title.

The helpful ‘put-you-straight’ poster on all tax-related threads added: “I would like to thank everyone who took the time to vote for me and look forward to continued participation -- and banter on the forums in the coming year.”

Further kudos on the forum goes to ‘NickFitz’ -- with over 10 years on the forum and over 40,000 posts, the popularity of his informative and thought-provoking Monday links from the Bench sees him win the award for Forum Personality of the Year.

One forum thread however has been deemed even more popular than the Monday links from NickFitz, as with over 150,000 views Cryptocurrency has been voted ‘Most Entertaining Forum Thread’ of the year.

“Wherever you were a contractor in 2017,” a ContractorUK spokesman said, “be it in the revolutionised public sector; somewhere more stable or even just on the forum, our thanks for taking part in these unique awards.”

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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