It’s a matter of accountability this week, as readers blame the ONS for overestimating and distorting statistics, columnists for failing to give the full story, and arsonists - not timber - for being a fire risk

Take it a step further

Tony Bingham tells us a sad story about a staircase and a dispute and how the law dealt with it all. But, perhaps, this is only a part of the story?
On the face of it, one would expect that someone embarking on a barn conversion would not be careless enough not to notice that the quote for the staircase didn’t include its installation? Correspondingly, it seems unusual that an experienced firm of joiners like W Machell didn’t intend to install the staircase. For elements like staircases, fabrication and installation are normally inseparable.

Bingham then debates at length the semantics of little and large breaches of contract. The bottom line, surely, is that the court found for the client that the staircase, in having its balusters (not banisters please, Bingham, in a technical journal) too widely spaced, was not fit for its purpose.

However, if we are to debate the seriousness of Machell’s apparent failure to get the balusters right, I would have thought that the re-build would require new outer strings and handrails as well as the extra balusters. Not a minor job, as Bingham implies.

Lastly, design. Bingham says the client “set the spaces on the stairs too wide”, implying that he had had a hand in its design. Yet elsewhere, he says Machell designed it.

It does seem rough justice that a persistent client, having won his case in the higher court should have to pay his costs for the first action which was effectively overturned.

May we have the full story, please?

Malcolm Taylor, FRICS

A statistical nightmare

In reference to your story about the Office of National Statistics, how can industry and commerce make effective business plans for the future when the ONS repeatedly, year on year, heavily overestimates growth rates?

How can we plan a future recovery based on the consistently poor quality of data from the ONS? We need realistic and factual statistics for our own business models and future plans.

Can the ONS’ work please be put out to the private sector and be fully independent from the government?

Colin Bicknell, via

Leave timber alone

Regarding your article “Insurers call for review of fire regulations”, I would like to make the following comment., a new home warranty provider, is an advocate of timber-frame as a building method, citing its speed and environmental soundness as some of its many benefits. Once completed a timber-frame structure does not present any additional fire risk over other building methods and in a number of cases offers a lower risk. It is true that timber-frame buildings can present a higher risk to damage by fire during construction but a well organised site security policy and system can all but negate this risk; the majority of fires on building sites are usually a result of an arson attack.

Paul Cooper, managing director, Checkmate