It’s time to drive out the cowboys, says the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) Northern Ireland.

The Federation of Master Builders is calling on the UK Parliament to introduce a statutory register for builders. The FMB is a representative body that polices the builders on their register, including checking the financial health of its members, but operates on a voluntary basis.

A lack of policing in the building sector is leading to poor workmanship, argues the FMB  report Licence to build: A pathway to licencing UK construction. For example, roughly half of refurbishment projects sites the UK Health and Safety body surveyed in 2016 fell below the standard required to comply with legal requirements.

“FMB Northern Ireland feel strongly that this review is the medicine the industry needs. We need to raise the level of quality of construction for clients and drive the cowboys out,” Gavin McGuire, director for FMB NI told Selfbuild. “Seeing this policy become reality will mean more protection for everyone and improve the image of the industry.”

The FMB calls on the UK government to adopt a scheme similar to those operating in  Australia, Germany, Denmark and some US states which all have enforcement powers and penalties.

In related news Judith Hackitt, author of the UK’s building regulations review into fire safety, told a Chartered Association of Building Engineers conference in October 2018 that she “would be happy to never hear [the phrase value engineering] again. It is anything but value, it is cuttings costs and quality.” She is calling for “a tougher regulation regime that has real penalties and sanctions.”

Update February 2019: A Licensing Task Force is being set up to flesh out key elements for how a licensing scheme might work in practice, including funding, standards and enforcement. The UK Government has agreed to formally consult on the introduction of a licensing scheme once the Task Force has developed a more detailed model. According to the FMB, if there is enough industry support the licensing scheme could be brought forward as a Bill before becoming an Act of Parliament in three to five years.

Update June 2019: The licensing task force was launched on the 12th June 2019; it is chaired by Liz Peace CBE, former CEO of the British Property Federation, and the following organisations will sit on it:
• Association of Consultancy and 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

At the launch Peace said: “At the heart of what we’re trying to do is increase protection for the ordinary person who engages with the construction sector. […] Enough is enough and the industry itself recognises that.”

Key statistics relating to licensing and the need for such a scheme are as follows:
• One third (32 per cent) of homeowners are put off doing major home improvement works requiring a builder because they fear hiring a dodgy builder;
• 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;
• More than three-quarters (77 per cent) 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;
• 78 per cent of consumers also want to see a licensing scheme for construction introduced;
• Nearly 90 per cent of home owners believe that the Government should criminalise rogue and incompetent builders;
• Over half of people (55 per cent) who commission home improvement work have had a negative experience with their builder.