The government has made major changes to its troubled anti-cowboy quality mark scheme.
The DETR has abandoned the six-part application form that small builders complained was too long and bureaucratic and replaced it with a simplified four-page form.
A spokesperson for the DETR also announced that quality mark accreditation would now focus on site inspections, rather than relying on the information on the form.
The new regime came into effect this week for the Birmingham pilot and the Somerset trial, which was launched on Monday.
One government insider described the changes as a “seismic change of policy” and said they proved that the government’s earlier approach to assessing competent builders had been misguided.
He said: “They spent two years with a working party considering how best to go about this and, a few months into the pilot, they have completely changed tack. The government is worried that most of the firms interested in the scheme are medium-sized subbies and not the small domestic builders the scheme is aimed at. They hope these changes will rectify that and create more interest.”
He added that site inspections would inevitably lead to an increase in the cost of assessing firms, since more work was involved than simply checking applications.
However, a spokesperson for the DETR insisted that the rethink would not lead to increased costs. He said: “The new form will be much more simple, with a greater emphasis on site performance and away from systems analysis.
“The original form was too complicated. Hopefully, this makes life easier for applicants. Questions about systems, such as management, supply chain and health and safety, will be dealt with through site visits.”
He added: “We are content that we can do the job we need to do within the fee scale announced earlier in the year.”
The spokesperson said the changes came about because the government listened to industry concerns about the scheme.
“The whole point of a pilot is to get the scheme right before we roll it out nationally. Any product is tested to assess problems and that is what we are doing with the quality mark, making sure we get it right.”
Other changes will allow firms to pay for the mark in instalments, and firms that register now will be exempt from paying until the scheme is launched nationally.