The government is right to identify the need to improve the image of the building industry, to help drive up standards and improve consumer protection, according to the Federation of Master Builders.

This is in response to the government's new industrial strategy Construction 2025, delivered on 2 July. The strategy sets out a plan for long-term action by government and industry to continue to work together to promote the success of the UK construction sector, focusing on key growth markets in smart technologies, green construction and overseas trade.

Following this, government-endorsed standards organisation Trustmark issued a warning to the British tradesman this week (3 July), after its research into public perceptions of tradesmen revealed a general lack of confidence. Almost a quarter of respondents said they have had an overall negative experience with tradesmen, and more than half of all respondents (52.5%) felt their perception of tradesmen had become more negative because of ‘cowboy builder’ TV programmes

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “For too long the image of the building industry has been blighted by the unscrupulous practices of those operating in the informal economy. The announcement to expand the TrustMark scheme for tradespeople, and to introduce new standards, is a welcome step to help drive out the rogue traders. The challenge going forward, both for government and the building industry as a whole, will be to ensure consumers are made aware of the benefits of only using TrustMark-accredited tradespeople.

“The government’s commitment to do much more to promote the range of access to finance products available to construction SMEs is also welcome, but it is disappointing there are not additional commitments to stop banks discriminating against construction firms. Construction SMEs are more likely to be turned down for an overdraft or loan than SMEs in other sectors. The banks must take a long, hard look at their lending policies to viable construction firms, and stop restricting growth in the industry.”

While Berry welcomed the new initiatives for the most part, he also said that the biggest problem for FMB members has been access to work opportunities. He added that in a recent FMB survey, 69% of members reported finding it ‘quite difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ to find out about public-sector contracts.

As a result, Berry said the FMB has been calling for more comprehensive use of regional online portals to advertise opportunities, and would welcome local construction pipelines to improve the visibility of public and private-sector opportunities for SMEs. The member group has also been calling for the adoption of the standardised PAS 91 pre-qualification questionnaire by all public-sector clients.

“The government’s industrial strategy can help the industry recover from recession, but only if the commitments outlined are implemented without delay. Given that more than 99% of the building industry’s 280,000 firms are SMEs, it is essential their concerns are addressed by the newly established Construction Leadership Council to help deliver significant growth in the economy,” Berry concluded.