A draft of the final report of the DETR’s cowboy builders working group, which is due to be ratified this week, says the body should have no more than 10 members, with a chairman appointed by the government.
It would administer the scheme of the quality mark, which will be awarded to reputable builders to distinguish them from rogue traders, starting from the summer of 2000.
The working group, led by Stent Foundations chairman Tony Merricks, says the group’s other roles would be to:
- approve standards for the bodies that would award the quality mark
- periodically review the standards of the quality mark
- operate a national approved list of constructors
- act as a last resort for complaints about constructors
- manage the publicity programme at the start of the scheme
- report annually on the operation of the scheme and make recommendations for its improvement.
The plan is for the new body to be established as a committee of the Construction Industry Board or as a free-standing organisation. Construction interests will make up 40% of its members; consumer groups will account for 30% and local authorities and regulators will account for the final 30%.
Merricks declined to reveal his personal recommendation for who should run the body, saying it was a matter for his group to discuss this week.
However, he did reveal that local authorities are to play a bigger part than expected in assessing which firms should be awarded the new mark.
The Local Government Association has been pressing for its Trading Standards Officers and Building Control Officers to vet firms.
The LGA ad feared that the quality mark award would become a “paper exercise”, with disreputable firms sneaking through the net, despite having appalling track records.
The latest report recommends that the LGA develop a framework for how local authorities could help to administer the quality mark.
Merricks said: “The local authorities want to play an active role and we welcome that. They can help us by physical inspection of a firm’s work – just working from reference will not be good enough.”
The final report is also expected to incorporate industry proposals on how firms should be assessed. Earlier drafts had focused more closely on identifying “competent operatives”, but it is understood that the emphasis has now shifted towards firms being judged on their overall competency.
However, one striking idea submitted by the National Consumer Council has been left out of the latest report. This proposal was backed by working group member Frances Harrison, who is a senior policy and development officer with the council. It suggested compiling a list of past misdemeanours committed by builders available to the public.
Based on the US Better Business Bureau, this would have seen details of all complaints against a builder made available to potential future customers. Details of convictions and county court judgments would also have been made easily available.
But Merricks said: “I have looked in depth at what Frances has put forward but it’s one step too far for now.”
He is understood to be concerned that builders will not register for the quality mark if they have to give out too much information about their businesses.