Construction industry launches Licensing Task Force

The construction industry in the UK has come together to develop a mandatory licensing scheme for all UK construction companies to transform the sector into a high quality and professional industry.

A new Construction Licensing Task Force, supported by a range of leading industry bodies, will lead the development of the licensing scheme.

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) says it is needed as 32% of home owners are put off doing major improvement works requiring a builder because they fear hiring a dodgy builder and this means that the UK economy could be missing out on £10 billion of construction activity per year because of anxiety over rogue building firms.

It also points out that 77% of small and medium-sized (SME) construction firms support the introduction of licensing to professionalise the industry, protect consumers and side-line unprofessional and incompetent building firms.

Some 78% of consumers also want to see a licensing scheme for construction introduced while nearly 90% of home owners believe that the Government should criminalise rogue and incompetent builders while 55% who commission home improvement work have had a negative experience with their builder.

The decision to establish a Construction Licensing Task Force follows a recommendation in an independent research report by Pye Tait published last year entitled ‘Licence to build: A pathway to licensing UK construction’, which details the benefits of introducing a licensing scheme for the whole construction industry and puts forward a proposal for how it could work.

The Task Force will be chaired by Liz Peace, former chief executive of the British Property Federation, and organisations sitting on it are the Association of Consultancy and Engineering, the British Property Federation, the Chartered Institute of Building, the Construction Products Association, the Electrical Contractors Association, the Federation of Master Builders, the Glass and Glazing Federation, Local Authority Building Control, RICS, TrustMark and Which? Trusted Traders.

‘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 is some areas, is falling short,’ said Peace.

‘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 £10 billion per year. Enough is enough and the industry itself recognises that,’ she pointed out.

‘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,’ she added.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, explained that the vast majority of builders and home owners 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,’ he said.

‘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,’ he added.