- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Category: Feature
A cross-party group of AMs today discussed whether tighter building regulations in Wales could help drive out “cowboys” and even save lives.
Chair of the Assembly’s construction group, Mid and West AM Joyce Watson invited industry experts and politicians to Cardiff Bay to debate the need for licensing controls for domestic builders.
Mrs Watson said:
“Cowboy builders undercut reputable tradespeople, undermine consumer confidence, wreck property and ruin lives. They give a bad name to an industry that is overwhelmingly full of hard-working, trustworthy professionals. That is why I am committed to exploring new ways to make it harder for rogue traders to operate in Wales.”
Wales Federation of Master Builders (FMB Cymru) director, Richard Jenkins argued that Wales and the UK are virtually the only western countries not to have some form of licensing control for domestic builders. He said the tragic death of Meg Burgess in 2009 highlighted the need for a change in the law:
“Four years ago, three year old Meg Burgess was instantly killed when a 23m wall, built and designed by a builder in Wales, collapsed as she walked with her parents on a public highway. Tragedies like this could be avoided with improved regulation, as currently anyone can set themselves up as a ‘builder’ and make structural change to domestic properties.
“The commercial construction sector is well served by mainly Health & Safety guided initiatives that make it very difficult for an inexperienced on untrained contractor or worker to operate in this sector. FMB Cymru is in favour of a protocol being developed that will end the absurd reality that builders working in the domestic sector are able to freely work with no licensing or assessment framework. There is also the economic effect that rogue or ‘cowboy’ builders have on the quality domestic building sector. They undercut and undervalue jobs as a general rule and often use financial gains to pressurise clients to collude with them to avoid VAT.
“It is clear that research is urgently needed into how this issue can be best resolved without putting undue regulation on a hard pressed construction sector. FMB Cymru plan to lead this process, by undertaking a research project that will inform and guide further discussion at the FMB Cymru conference in October, with the aim of developing proposals for improved regulation of the industry which could be introduced by government.”
The cross-party group agreed to write to the Welsh Government to ask for funding for the research project, to look at the merits and feasibility of a Welsh builders’ license.
FMB chief executive, Brian Berry added:
“FMB is committed to being a champion for higher standards in the building industry, which means pushing out the ‘cowboys’. This commitment is reflected by the fact that all FMB members by the end of 2016 will need to be inspected and in compliance with TrustMark standards. This decision has already been welcomed by TrustMark.”