Construction industry licensing receives consumer support

New research has revealed the significant majority of home owners and builders would support the introduction of a scheme to stamp out rogue traders.

According to the Federation of Master Builders, just under 80% of respondents would like the Government to bring in a licensing scheme for the UK construction industry, indicating the extent of the issues posed by rogue traders at present.

The consumer research shows that 77% of small and medium sized construction firms support licensing in order to protect consumers and professionalise the industry. Whilst 78% of consumers were of the same opinion, 90% felt that rogue and incompetent builders should face some form of criminal prosecution.

The survey also showed that over half (55%) of those who commission home improvement work have had a negative experience with a builder.

On taking action, a report published by the Federation, entitled ‘License to build: A pathway to licensing UK construction’, details the benefits of introducing such a scheme, putting forward a proposal on how it could work across the construction industry.

Commenting on the proposed plans and the need to professionalise the industry was Brian Berry. The Chief Executive of the Federation said: “The vast majority of builders and home owners 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.

“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.

A”side from the obvious health and safety benefits, the advantages of a licensing scheme are manifold. 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 home owners to undertake more construction work.

“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 also explained the operation of the scheme, as well as the costs involved, stating: “In terms of how the scheme might work, it needn’t be too costly or bureaucratic. Our report draws on the experience of experts from across the construction industry and puts forward a clear proposal. 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. 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.”

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