Department to give trade associations proof that anti-cowboy scheme offers value for money.
The DTI is to publish statistics to allow firms to gauge the benefits of membership of the quality mark scheme.

The department's move is understood to have come after consultation with trade associations. The statistics will include hits on the scheme's website, the number of enquiries quality mark contractors receive and the number of those enquiries that are converted into work.

A DTI spokesperson confirmed that the consultations were taking place, and said a number of trade associations were being consulted to develop the performance indicators.

She added that other interested parties, including trading standards departments, local authorities and consumer groups, would be consulted.

A source at one trade association said there was a consensus that quantitative research was needed to allow firms to decide whether the mark was good value for money.

The quality mark is a government scheme to protect consumers from incompetent builders. Companies have to meet independently verified quality standards, agree to follow a code of conduct and pay at least £500 to gain the mark, after which their names are placed on a register. The public can find an approved firm by telephone or the internet. If a customer employs a builder holding the quality mark, they receive a six-month guarantee on the work.

The indicators will install benchmarks to help measure the scheme’s progress

Grenville Weltch, chairman, National Specialist Contractors Council

Pilot schemes are under way in Birmingham and Somerset. Stephen Walker, specialist consultant at Walker Associates, who was appointed project manager in October 1999, left his post last week after his task of implementing the schemes was complete. The DTI will now project manage the scheme in-house.

Grenville Weltch, chairman of the National Specialist Contractors Council, said the introduction of performance indicators would keep up the momentum of the quality mark, which is thought to be struggling for members.

He added that regular meetings between firm's representatives and the DTI were important to keep parties up to date with developments and to maintain interest, as well as measure progress.

He added: "The indicators will install important benchmarks to help measure the scheme's progress."