New task force to tackle construction's dodgy image

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Construction Licensing Task Force will develop a mandatory licensing scheme for UK construction companies

Home improvements

The UK construction industry could be missing out on 10bn-worth of business due to its poor image, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

In an attempt to restore the sectors reputation in the eyes of the public the FMB has joined forces with 10 other industry groups to develop a mandatory licensing scheme for UK construction companies which it said would transform the sector into a high quality and professional industry.

A new Construction Licensing Task Force, headed by former British Property Federation boss Liz Peace, will map out the licensing scheme, which the FMB hopes to have thrashed out within three years.

Speaking at the launch of the task force at the House of Lords yesterday communities minister James Brokenshire (pictured) said he fully backed the FMBs drive to boost quality and standards as part of what he called a culture change towards transforming building and fire safety.

James Brokenshire

Brokenshire also told Housing Today at the event that he had visited the housing scheme in Barking which had been devastated by fire last weekend and had sought to reassure residents made homeless by the blaze that the government, together with the local authority, was doing all it could to find them alternative accommodation while the cause of the fire was being investigated.

The FMB said the perception of build quality was a major factor in its research around a proposed licensing scheme. It said it had found nearly a third (32%) of homeowners were reluctant to undertake major home improvement work which required hiring a builder for fear of recruiting someone dodgy.

And more than half (55%) of people who had used a builder to carry out home improvement work said they had had a negative experience with the company.

Nearly 90% of homeowners wanted to see the government criminalise what the FMB labelled rogue and incompetent builders.

More than three-quarters (77%) of small and medium-sized construction firms supported the introduction of licensing to professionalise the industry, protect consumers and sideline unprofessional and incompetent building firms.

And similar percentage (78%) of consumers also wanted to see a licensing scheme for construction introduced.

The industrys poor image and a reluctance to use builders for home improvement work was costing the sector 10bn, the FMB said.

At the launch of the task force in Westminister Liz Peace said mandatory licensing had the potential to transform the industry into a world-leading sector.

Licensing will help drive up standards and help address the issue of quality and professionalism, which is some areas, is falling short. At the heart of what were trying to do is increase protection for the ordinary person who engages with the construction sector.

According to research by the FMB, one third of homeowners are so worried about having a bad experience with their builder, they are putting off commissioning construction work altogether. This could be costing the economy as much as 10bn per year.

Enough is enough and the industry itself recognises that, Peace added.

Brian Berry, the FMBs chief executive, said the vast majority of builders and homeowners wanted to see the construction industry professionalised.

Its unacceptable that more than half of consumers have had a negative experience with their builder. However, we shouldnt 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.

The following organisations will sit on the Construction Licensing Task Force:

Association of Consultancy and Engineering

British Property Federation

Chartered Institute of Building

Construction Products Association

Electrical Contractors Association

Federation of Master Builders

Glass and Glazing Federation / FENSA

Local Authority Building Control

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors

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