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Calls for licensing to stamp out cowboy builders in the UK

In a bid to stamp out rogue traders, builders and homeowners in the UK are calling on the Government to introduce a licensing scheme for the construction industry.

According to the independent study by Pye Tait for the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), 80% of property owners and construction workers would welcome regulation. The report also puts forward a proposal of how such a scheme may work, while highlighting the benefits of tighter regulation.

Most homeowners support the idea of a mandatory licensing scheme, with new consumer research by FMB revealing the scale of impact that poor quality building firms are having on consumer confidence.

The research found that 78% of consumers support the idea of introducing mandatory licenses for construction workers, while 90% would like to see criminal charges imposed on rogue traders.

77% of small and medium-sized construction firms also would be in favour of licensing as a means of protecting consumers and ridding the trade of cowboys. A further 55% stated that they have had at least one negative experience with builders when having home improvements carried out in the past.

‘The vast majority of builders and homeowners want to see the construction industry professionalised and it is time for the Government to act. It’s unacceptable that more than half of consumers have had a negative experience with their builder,’ said Brian Berry, FMB chief executive.

‘However, we shouldn’t be surprised by this given that in the UK, it is perfectly legal for anyone to set up a building firm and start selling their services without any prior experience or qualifications. This cannot be right given the nature of the work and the potential health and safety risks when something goes wrong. In countries like Australia and Germany, building firms require a licence and we want to see the UK Government regulate our industry in a similar manner,’ he pointed out.

Berry explained that a licensing scheme is functional on many levels. ‘Licensing would bar from the industry the very worst firms operating in the construction sector. Consumer protection would increase and with it, the appetite among homeowners to undertake more construction work,’ he said.

‘We also believe that if we can improve the image of the industry through licensing, young people, parents and teachers will have a more favourable impression of our sector and therefore be more likely to pursue, or recommend, a career in construction. Over time, this would gradually help ease the construction skills shortage we currently face. For too long, the very worst construction firms, most of which undertake private domestic work, have been giving the whole sector a bad name. So that’s why this scheme should be of interest to the whole sector and not just small local builders,’ he added.

The FMB have also allayed any concerns that the scheme may just another bureaucratic money-spinner. ‘We are suggesting that the scheme covers all paid-for construction work by firms of all sizes, not just those working in the domestic sector. Fees should be tiered and could start at as little as £150 every three to five years, with the largest contractors paying around £1,000 over the same period,’ said Berry.

‘In terms of how it’s governed, the licence should be administered by a single authority with a broad range of scheme providers sitting underneath. We are now keen to reach out to the whole construction sector to get their input on the proposal. If we can demonstrate broad support for this approach, we are optimistic that the Government will take it forward,’ he concluded.




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