Millman Group is the first Birmingham firm to win the quality mark. Construction minister Nick Raynsford gratefully awarded the certificate at last week's Interbuild conference to manager Rebekah Millman. Raynsford and Millman also did an impromptu interview with local radio legend Ed Doolan on BBC Radio WM.

Director David Millman said the firm applied for the quality mark because it supported the idea in principle, even though domestic work, which daughter Rebekah manages, accounts for only 15% of its £2m turnover. He hopes the quality mark will enable legitimate firms like his to reclaim the domestic market from the cowboys. "Good builders are desperate for it and Joe Public is desperate for it. We have all wanted this to happen for years."

Millman filled in a four-page application form and spent half a day with assessors to win the quality mark. Why does he think his is the only firm so far to have made it through the process? "The accreditation system lays too much emphasis on procedures and paperwork. On the one hand, they check to see if a jobbing builder does a job to a reasonable standard at the price and in the time he says he will. The other side is paperwork and audits. They want to see your environmental policy, your health and safety policy and equal opportunities statement, your purchase orders for materials, how you prove materials were delivered to site, how you check materials are of the right standard and fit for purpose.

"We have a foreman on site who does all that, so it's easy. A lot of smaller builders would have difficulties putting that kind of audit in place. They just order stuff on their mobile phone from builders merchants – there's no purchase order, no audit trail."

Millman, who was a member of the quality mark steering group at Birmingham City Council, believes that the accreditation system can be refined. "It's early days. Birmingham is piloting the scheme, so the idea is to test out criteria and systems. By the time it's launched nationally the teething problems will be sorted out."

However, he says it will only work if the government backs it to the hilt. "The people who make things happen – local authorities, insurance companies, mortgage brokers – have to adopt the quality mark for it to work." He adds: "The final proof that the government is serious about the quality mark will be when the chancellor brings

VAT down on property repairs, because Joe Public is not going to pay 25% more for a job to be done by a quality-marked contractor. That problem keeps cowboys in business."

How the council is cracking down on rogue traders

Birmingham City Council’s consumer advice centre set up a unit in April to investigate the constant complaints it gets about rogue traders. It has started swooping on domestic building sites on the trail of cowboys operating in particular areas. Chris Neville (right), manager of the consumer advice and assistance team, says it is investigating criminal and civil cases. Criminal cases include complaints against builders that claim to be a member of the Federation of Master Builders when they are not or that charge for work that has not been done. Most of the complaints are civil cases against builders that do poor quality work or walk out of a job halfway through. He adds that rogue traders are hard to track down because they don’t use invoices. “Often, old people don’t know who they have had in to do the work. It’s an itinerant builder who has knocked on the door.” Neville was on the quality mark steering group at the city council. “It’s a very good scheme,” he says. “We get a lot of calls from people asking us to recommend a builder or to reassure them that the one they’ve hired is OK. But we’re not allowed to disclose complaints. It would be useful for us to be able to say: ‘This is a quality-marked firm’. “However, the builders who get on the list will be at the higher end of the market. People will still choose builders on price, not quality.”