The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) is calling on the Government to introduce a licensing scheme for all builders and contractors in the UK. We believe that this is the only way to truly eliminate from our industry incompetent firms which lack the necessary knowledge and professionalism and pose a risk to themselves and their clients. At the same time, a licensing system could serve to promote and drive up technical competence, customer service, financial good conduct, and health and safety compliance, and provide routes to continual professional development which we currently lack. This paper sets out the background to the campaign, outlines the case for licensing and requests the support of your organisation in principle.

We believe that the construction industry is at a crossroads and that the time is right to make radical changes that can permanently secure a safer, more productive and more professional industry. We cannot do this without a mechanism to ensure a minimum level of competence across the industry, something which does not currently exist. The continued prevalence of rogue and incompetent builders remains a serious concern, particularly, but not solely, in the domestic repair, maintenance and improvement (RM&I) market. These firms undercut professional and competent firms, putting downward pressure on standards and compliance, and seriously undermine the image of the whole industry. That this situation persists well into the twenty-first century is not acceptable. Although we are a diverse industry, we believe that the perpetuation of this situation has knock-on impacts across the sector. Dame Judith Hackitt’s interim report, although focused on a particular area (tall buildings and fire safety), highlighted the fact that the industry has no general registration requirements and noted that, in this respect, we lag behind many other parts of the world. We believe that a licensing system is the necessary underpinning to drive the culture change we need to see across the entire construction sector.

Key Benefits

1) Removing the scourge of incompetent and rogue builders from the industry
Enforcing a basic level of competence as an entry requirement should effectively exclude the grossly incompetent, without acting as a barrier to the many more competent builders and tradespeople who the industry wants to attract into its ranks. Effective policing and enforcement would act as a backup mechanism, whereby serial offenders and those who consistently fail to maintain standards can be effectively removed from the industry.

2) Offer a much higher level of consumer protection
Given the numerous cases of rogue builders still regularly highlighted, consumers understandably view purchasing building services as a serious risk. A recent FMB survey of homeowners found one in three saying that they have been put off doing major home improvement work because of fears over hiring a dodgy builder. When building work goes wrong, seeking redress tends to be arduous, expensive and beyond the ability of many. A licensing scheme would remove from circulation rogue traders and incompetent builders and act as an easily understood signal, a bare legal minimum that all consumers would expect, and something which insurance providers could insist on for home insurance policies to remain valid.

3) Increase construction output and boost the wider economy
The FMB carried out research among 2,000 homeowners at the beginning of 2018 which showed that one third are so anxious about hiring a poor quality builder, they are putting off commissioning building work altogether. This could be costing the construction industry and the wider economy billions of pounds every year. If licensing was introduced, it would help release this untapped additional work.

4) Act as a mechanism to drive up quality, professionalisation and improved productivity
We believe a licensing scheme is a necessary underpinning for the professionalisation of the industry, which will in turn drive a major culture change which will serve to push up quality and productivity across the board. Gaining and renewing the licence would provide a means of enabling upskilling and continued professional development, in terms of technical competence, regulatory understanding and management skills.

5) Help to improve health and safety compliance among smaller firms
A licensing scheme would serve to discourage entrance to the industry by those inclined to cut corners on quality and safety, and a basic health and safety test could be included as an entry criterion for a mandatory register. Licence renewal could provide a mechanism for updating regulatory understanding and effective policing could remove the worst offenders.

6) Dramatically improve the image of the industry and help solve the skills shortage
All of the above should lead to a significant improvement in the image of the industry, not just among its customers, but also in terms of making it a more attractive prospect for those choosing a career, and by doing so could help to address the ongoing skills shortages we face.

Next Steps
The FMB has commissioned Pye Tait to undertake a research report into licensing. As part of their research, Pye Tait will consult key stakeholders right across the construction and built environment sector and their views will feed into the final report. The report will be launched at an event in the House of Lords on 2 nd July 2018. Speakers include the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP; TV presenter Nick Knowles and Director of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety Andrew Pattison.

Request for Support
Introducing a licensing system for builders is not Government policy and therefore the main aim of the research is to convince the Government of the potential benefits and encourage them to explore this further. In order to achieve this, we need to demonstrate wider industry support, in principle, for the introduction of a system. For the FMB, a successful outcome following the report launch would be for the Government to agree to research and consult on the issue more formally. We are therefore asking stakeholders if they can back the campaign in principle.

So far, the following organisations support, in principle, the need for a licensing system for builders to raise standards and protect consumers:

 Association for Consultancy and Engineering: https://www.acenet.co.uk/home/592
 Construction Products Association: https://www.constructionproducts.org.uk/
 FENSA: https://www.fensa.org.uk/
 Glass and Glazing Federation: http://www.ggf.org.uk/
 HIES: https://www.hiesscheme.org.uk/primary-authority/
 Industry Forum: https://www.industryforum.co.uk/
 Insulation Manufacturers Association: http://insulationmanufacturers.org.uk/
 Local Authority Building Control: https://www.labc.co.uk/
 National Home Improvement Council: https://nhic.org.uk/

If you are willing to add your organisation’s name to the above list, please contact Sarah McMonagle, Director of External Affairs, via sarahmcmonagle@fmb.org.uk or call 020 7025 2901.

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