Second opinion The quality mark is like Constructionline: a good idea that’s going to struggle to arouse much enthusiasm.

Forgive me if I’m missing something, but aren’t the acres of coverage in the construction press on the subject of “combating cowboys” missing the point?

For the vast majority of readers – presumably “professionals” (in the loosest sense of the word) working in the construction industry – all the debate about the quality mark is surely irrelevant. The mark is, after all, intended to assist domestic consumers select contractors to carry out repairs, maintenance and improvements.

For major electrical and mechanical contractors such as Hills Electrical & Mechanical, the quality mark is of no interest whatsoever: we work for large builders and clients, not domestic consumers. Why pay to join yet another assessment scheme when its target audience is not our customer base?

I realise that the government committees that come up with such schemes need to be kept busy, but surely if they are going to the trouble of coming up with an assessment scheme it should apply to all contractors doing work for all customers?

Speaking of paying for schemes that appear to miss the target reminds me of that other generator of large amounts of editorial copy and absolutely no work (for us, anyway): Constructionline. In its favour, Constructionline has one of the best construction-related web sites around. But so it should be – we, along with hundreds of other contractors, have paid for it.

I wish every time someone comes up with an idea for ridding the world of cowboys, the good guys didn’t end up paying for it

Constructionline really is a neat idea. In the past, the government kept a free approved list of contractors for when it wanted work done. Then some bright spark thought that if it were privatised, contractors could be charged to go on the list and instead of just being an approved list it becomes a nice little earner. Nice idea – it’s like me charging the client to give them a quote.

It’s such a good idea that quite a few lookalike companies have started up on the web, claiming to do the same thing. We were stung when two main contractors told us we had to pay to register with a lookalike to get work from them.

We have paid to be on Constructionline for a couple of years, and despite never getting any work from it we will continue to pay. The logo looks nice on the letterhead and you never know – without it we might miss that vital contract.

Do local authorities use it? As far as I can judge, they find Constructionline useful, as it enables them to say “we rely on Constructionline” while allowing them to do what they’ve done for years – use the companies they want to use.

Don’t misunderstand me. I hope Constructionline becomes a single source of qualified contractors. It will save subcontractors like us an enormous amount of time and expense in prequalification. It is a ludicrous situation when, despite having worked for a client or main contractor for years, we have to prequalify for every project we get involved in. We have to fill in the same long form describing the last job and how our health and safety, quality and any number of other policies work. Then we attend an interview where we solemnly explain why we should be allowed to tender. Sometimes we get lucky, other times we don’t.