Construction licensing scheme

A coalition of construction and consumer organisations have come together to create a licensing scheme for construction companies. The idea is that domestic consumers and housholders, as opposed to business customers, need to know that their builder is reputable and professional.

A new construction licensing task force, supported by a range of leading industry bodies has now been set up to lead the development of a licensing scheme. It is not yet clear whether it will be enforced by law, or just another industry badge scheme. The initiative comes on the back of a report commissioned by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) last year, Licence to Build: A pathway to licensing UK construction, which set out how the scheme could work. It recognised that the current plethora of kitemark and badge schemes has only created confusion in the marketplace and some are not much more than a marketing racket. According to FMB’s research, 77% of its members support a licensing scheme to drive weaker and less competent traders out of business (and are presumably). It says 78% of consumers also want to see a licensing scheme for construction introduced.

The task force is chaired by Liz Peace, former chief executive of the British Property Federation. The following organisations will be represented:-

Association of Consultancy & Engineering British Property Federation Chartered Institute of Building Construction Products Association Electrical Contractors Association Federation of Master Builders Glass and Glazing Federation / FENSA Local Authority Building Control Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors TrustMark Which? Trusted Traders

Liz Peace said: “Mandatory licensing has the potential to transform our industry into a world leading sector. Licensing will help drive up standards and help address the issue of quality and professionalism, which in some areas, is falling short. At the heart of what we’re trying to do is increase protection for the ordinary person who engages with the construction sector. Indeed, according to research by the FMB, one third of homeowners are so worried about having a bad experience with their builder, they are putting off commissioning construction work altogether. This could be costing the economy as much as £10bn per year. Enough is enough and the industry itself recognises that”. She continued: “Licensing has support in principle from more than 30 construction organisations and consumer groups. The task force will be supported by major players and in an industry that is often criticised for being too fractured and disparate. I am heartened by the fact that the sector is coming together to lead the industry in a new direction. I’m also pleased that senior civil servants from BEIS and MHCLG will sit on the task force as observers as government engagement right from the outset is crucial to the successful development of the scheme”.

FMB chief executive Brian Berry said: “The vast majority of builders and homeowners want to see the construction industry professionalised. It’s unacceptable that more than half of consumers have had a negative experience with their builder. However, we shouldn’t be surprised by this given that in the UK, it is perfectly legal for anyone to set up a building firm and start selling their services without any prior experience or qualifications. This cannot be right given the nature of the work and the potential health and safety risks when something goes wrong. In countries like Australia and Germany, building firms require a licence and we want to develop a scheme that regulates our industry in a similar manner. I am delighted to be part of the construction licensing task force and will ensure that any such scheme works for small building firms”.

For an industry usually keen on deregulation, a light hand and freedom to do business. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out.