Greg Wright: Let’s liberate Britain from the tyranny of cowboy builders

Action is needed to thwart the cowboy builders, says Greg Wright
Action is needed to thwart the cowboy builders, says Greg Wright
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IT’s time to liberate Britain from the tyranny of cowboy builders, who continue to roam unchecked despite posing a potentially lethal menace.

Incredibly, anybody can classify themselves as a builder in Britain, an oversight which is an indictment of our feeble regulatory system.

Responsible builders are angered by the activities of the rogues and exasperated by the lack of effective sanctions against them.

They are now calling for a formal licensing system to reduce the potential for catastrophic errors.

Around 80 per cent of builders polled by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) believe more regulation is needed to destroy the cowboys; a rare example of a business group demanding more red tape.

Britain is out of step with other sophisticated economies on this issue.

In the US and Germany, for example, it is necessary to display a minimum level of competence before you can establish a building business.

Until we introduce a licensing scheme in the UK, cowboy builders will continue to run rampant in the industry, according to the FMB.

Incompetent and unscrupulous builders prey on the elderly and vulnerable, charging ludicrous sums for botched work.

In the aftermath of flooding, there are frequently reports of dubious tradesmen moving in and offering their “services” to victims.

Most of us have experienced the trauma of shoddy building work, or know somebody who has been left infuriated and out of pocket by incompetent builders.

The lack of an effective sanction against inept builders has wider consequences.

The FMB’s research found that one third of home owners in the UK are so anxious about hiring a cowboy builder that they decide against commissioning building work, even if it might improve their quality of life and the value of their property.

This collapse in trust is stopping reputable builders from winning work and hiring staff.

It’s hardly surprising the FMB is demanding action.

The FMB wants to start a discussion about the best ways of driving up quality and professionalism in the construction sector.

The group is calling for mandatory warranties for building projects and the development of a “general builder” qualification which would seek to recognise the highest standards of professionalism.”

Although the current building regulations should ensure minimum standards in design and construction work, as things stand they can do nothing to ensure compensation for a customer who has been ripped off.

Many householders simply cannot afford to sue a rogue builder.

And if the cowboy firm has gone bust, the law offers the consumer no protection at all.

The FMB argues that a mandatory warranty requirement would build in extra protection for the consumer.

It would enable the insurance industry to play a greater role in providing consumer assurance in the industry.

This would also signal an end to the cash-in-hand economy and VAT avoidance, according to the FMB.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “The average home owner would spend around £40,000 on major home improvement projects over the next five years if they could be guaranteed a positive experience with their builder.

“It’s time to release this pent up demand for building work through a licensing scheme consumers can trust.”

We’re living in an age when many people have a growing sense of unease about the safety of the buildings in which they live and work. This is an incredible scenario in the 21st century.

Our region has a powerful array of skilled building companies . They are creating structures that are easy on the eye and kind to the environment. We cannot allow the sector’s reputation to be destroyed by operators who have no concern for their customers’ welfare.

By imposing a compulsory licensing scheme, policymakers would make it much harder for rogue and incompetent firms to flourish. Anyone operating without a license would feel the full force of the law come down on them. Only then will our construction sector be truly built on firm foundations.