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74% of builders agree this scheme could help stamp out cowboys

3-minute read

Lauren Hellicar

30 July 2018

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A survey of members of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has revealed that 77 per cent agree with the idea of licensing all UK construction firms.

What's more, 74 per cent of those surveyed believe licensing the industry would clear out rogue and incompetent builders.

While most builders take pride in their work, a select few cowboys are more interested in making a fast buck than delivering quality craftsmanship. This could be set to change.

A report produced by Pye Tait in collaboration with the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) is calling time on substandard workmanship. It also highlights the lack of regulatory backing for quality builders trying to make an honest living.

According to the FMB’s online survey of 487 small building firms in April 2018, more than 70 per cent of respondents agree that a licensing scheme would:

  • lead to better quality, with a higher level of professionalism
  • lead to the removal of rogue and incompetent outfits
  • help to improve the image of the construction industry
  • offer better protection to consumers

Opt-in quality assurance schemes

Currently, each country in the UK has building regulations, and opt-in schemes like the ‘trust mark’ framework do exist. But there are no properly enforced licensing schemes. So, unless everyone opts in, the existing schemes give no real assurances to honest tradespeople and their customers.

How could new licensing help?

The Pye Tait report, produced in collaboration with the FMB, is titled ‘Licence to build: A pathway to licensing UK construction’. It lays out how compulsory licensing of UK builders could be implemented.

The report discusses how the scheme would help to increase quality and standards across the whole construction industry:

Increased protection for builders and consumers

For builders, new licensing could mean an end to being undercut by dodgy dealers who take shortcuts to make fast money.

For customers, it would mean greater peace of mind. They'd know they were employing someone who has relevant training and qualifications – and that they abide by the rules.

Bolstered public perception of the building trade

For the construction industry as a whole, it would mean a select few rogue tradies couldn't negatively affect perception of the profession – hopefully leading to greater levels of trust from the public.

A recent survey revealed that 38 per cent of people don't trust builders when employing them for the first time – a licensing scheme could help builders overcome some of the public's misconceptions.

Improved frameworks

The FMB’s proposal involves building on the foundations of the existing quality assurance frameworks. The idea is to reduce disruption and the amount that businesses would have to pay out to comply.

This is especially good news for more than 90 per cent of the UK construction sector, which is made up of firms with fewer than 10 staff.

Reduction in bodge jobs

Technically, there’s no current requirement to have any recognised qualifications or training to trade as a builder in the UK.

But your average domestic customer often doesn’t have the technical know-how to spot rogue builders. They place a lot of trust in tradies they invite into their home. Whether it’s to lay foundations, knock down walls, or build an extension – there’s a long list of related safety concerns to bear in mind.

Rogue builders and shoddy workmanship can turn customers' lives upside down, so a licensing scheme would mean that customers would trust that the builders called in would get the job done right first time.

Other trades have similar schemes

Gas engineers need to have required qualifications to register with Gas Safe Register, the official gas registration body for the United Kingdom. It’s illegal to work on gas in the UK, Isle of Man or Guernsey without that essential seal of approval.

So, customers with a gas leak or boiler trouble can trust that the person they call in is certified to take care of the problem.

A licensing scheme could help bring the building trade in line with how others are regulated.

Global comparison

Countries like Germany and Denmark take licensing their builders very seriously.

Their regulatory bodies have real enforcement powers, which includes the ability to hit builders breaching the rules with a penalty. The knock-on effect is a culture of compliance that’s all about protecting honest builders and their customers.

What do you think of a new licensing scheme? Let us know in the comments below.

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