The government is set to invest considerable time, money and effort on resurrecting its anti-cowboy builder scheme, the Quality Mark. But will this gamble pay off?
As far as government initiatives go, the Quality Mark scheme has so far been a resounding failure. The anti-cowboy scheme needs 40,000-45,000 contractors before it can be publicised to homeowners. A month ago, only 581 firms had signed up since its inception in June 2001 – that would be barely enough contractors to cover the eastern half of Birmingham.

The scheme needs to gather momentum quickly to convince contractors it is a worthwhile joining. Unfortunately, enthusiasm for the Quality Mark already seems to be ebbing away. Since its launch, 159 firms have left giving a churn rate of 27%.

Part of the problem has been the reluctance of trade bodies to align their own accreditation schemes with the Quality Mark. The Heating and Ventilating Contractor's Association was one such body. It launched an accreditation scheme last year that did not give members Quality Mark status. Bad news for the government as it was hoping to piggyback the Quality Mark on trade association's schemes.

The HVAC cited the Quality Mark's six-year warranty schemes as a disincentive to join. Its own scheme only demands that contractors provide a three-year guarantee for their work, which makes the Quality Mark an unattractive proposition for firms.

In an effort to breath life into the scheme, it appears the government is ready to reduce the length of time that contractors would have to provide warranties. A source at Whitehall told Building that the length of the warranty would be reduced from six to three years.

The source also said that the Treasury would also assess how the scheme was paid for. At the moment contractors have to pay a percentage of their turnover to become a member – one reason why members may be reluctant to renew their subscriptions.

An announcement on the Quality Mark is expected during Gordon Brown's Comprehensive Spending Review on 12 July.

To help resurrect the scheme, the DTI has also appointed independent consultant Dan Bernard. Bernard has experience in the retail sector of managing major business change – the DTI will be hoping he gives the Quality Mark a renewed sense of focus.

A DTI spokesperson also said that the aim of the review would be to work with reputable trade bodies committed to the government's agenda. It seems the government has accepted that it will have to realign its warranty scheme with those of the trade associations, rather than the other way round.