TrustMark, the government-endorsed quality mark for tradesmen, have issued guidance for homeowners who are keen to take advantage of new Green Deal upgrades.

The new guidance has been issued amidst fears that an increasing number of Green Deal cowboys are in operation, who are quick to fleece householders for any other work which arises out of the Green Deal work.

The work carried out under the Green Deal is regulated by certain controls which have been put in place. However, as TrustMark chairman Liz Male explains, it is the supplementary work which does not fall under the bracket of the Green Deal which is the route of the problem.

“We want to give the Green Deal every chance of becoming a roaring success, boosting the energy efficiency and comfort of homes across the UK. However, with the oldest housing stock in Europe, we are also well aware that many homes will require essential repair and maintenance work before they are in a position where solid wall insulation, new heating systems and other upgrades can be installed. Much of this work will not be covered by the Green Deal and therefore the consumer protection safeguards we have put in place will not apply. In this instance householders should turn to TrustMark registered tradesmen to complete the work.

“Having lobbied hard for a code of practice, we will not allow the Green Deal to be used by rogue traders as a method of deceiving or conning the public. The guidance we have set out includes clear advice to Green Deal providers that they must ensure any ‘ancillary works’ are completed properly by vetted and insured tradesmen who work under the TrustMark banner”.

The advice being given to householders wishing to be a part of the Green Deal scheme is not to be tempted to ask an installer to carry out any repair work as they are already in your home. You should always insist on using a TrustMark registered tradesmen, even if you are offered the repair, maintenance or improvement work there and then.

The leaflet is free to download at www.trustmark.org.uk/green-deal/.      

According to the Construction Industry Joint Council (CIJC), the minimum wage for construction workers is now £8.03 for general operatives and £10.67 for a craft worker.

In their announcement the CILJ state that the change will apply to workers who fall under the terms of the Working Rule Agreement, which totals some 500,000, but they don’t actually clarify who these “under the agreement” include.

Steve Murphy, the secretary for UCATT, said: “Construction workers undertake physically demanding, highly skilled jobs and it is essential that all companies covered by the CIJC pay the agreed increase.”

Although this is an obvious move forward for some people could there potentially be a negative effect for others?

An increase in minimum wages is always welcome, but are employers going to view this simply as an additional expense. If they have to employ someone on a higher wage, are they going to employ them or look for a solution elsewhere? Will the employer employ a person if the cost is greater than the value produced?

Take for instance a bricklayer who gets paid £10.67 per hour on a 40hour week (£426.80). This, along with a general operative’s wage of £321.20, produces a combined total of £748.00. At today’s rate of £300 per thousand for bricks, he needs to lay roughly 2500 bricks to cover his wages. If the bricklayer is only laying 1500 bricks, then is it worth him being employed?

So, is the increase a good thing? On a personal level I think the increase is too low. To become a qualified tradesperson through the NVQ route involves a lot of hard work and plenty of studying and commitment, with workers not reaching the top rate until they are fully qualified (if your are under twenty one then the minimum wage is less). The rise is also not in line with the level of inflation over the past few years so maybe it should be be recalculated. As the secretary of UCATT stated, “Construction workers undertake physical demanding highly skilled jobs”, so let the wages reflect this.

At last the proposed changes to ‘Part P’ have been announced, specifically the changes to electrical work in domestic premises that require notifying Building Control Services.
From April 2013, homeowners will no longer have to pre-notify certain electrical work in their homes, or have a registered (member of a competent person scheme) electrician complete the work. The financial saving to the homeowner for not having to pre-notify the work is in the region of £240 (depending where you live) per job.

So from April if you want to:

•    Fit an extra socket in your kitchen,
•    Fit extra security lighting to your home,
•    Fit an exterior socket (for the lawnmower)

You can, and you do not need to notify the work as was required previously.

Any electrical work being carried out in rooms containing a bath or shower will still require notification, as will the installation of any new circuit anywhere in the property.

These changes will not only save DIY homeowners a bit of cash; they also bring the requirements of ‘Part P’ more into line with BS7671 IET Wiring Regulations, in terms of Special Locations/Installations.

Before all you DIYers rush out to buy cable, sockets etc. from B&Q (other outlets are available) it might be a good idea to check your home insurance policy. If you do the job yourself and a problem occurs, will your insurance cover you? It would be a shame to save £200 only to find out your insurance is null and void and the cost of repairing your home will be your responsibility.

My advice would be: be careful, consider using a qualified electrician even if it is only to double check your work.

Mark Jenkins

The United Kingdom Government is due to announce changes to Part ‘P’. Part ‘P’ was introduced to improve the electrical safety within dwellings and requires some electrical work in dwellings to be pre-notified to building control authorities, or be carried out by members of an electrical competent person scheme. Part P is one of a number of approved documents that accompany the Building Regulations 2000.

The Building Regulations 2000 apply in England and Wales (Scotland and N Ireland have their own building regulations and versions of Part P). However, when the amendment to Part P comes out it will only apply in England.

The Building Regulations were devolved down to the Welsh Assembly in 2012; giving the Assembly the power to change the Building Regulations in Wales, and recent indications from the Assembly indicates there are no immediate plans to change the existing regulations.

So what does this mean for electricians?

If you work on the boarders of England, Scotland and Wales, you no longer have to only deal with the different paperwork and procedures devised by the different building control authorities when notifying work; you will now have different legislation requirements to cope with at the same time. This could end up being a paperwork nightmare, to such an extent that people may ‘forget’ to apply the requirements of Part P!

As Part P was intended to improve the electrical safety in dwellings, any watering down of its requirements could result in a compromise in people’s safety.

Surely the United Kingdom Government should ‘get a grip’ and unite with us a single set of regulations that apply in every area of the kingdom and help electricians to keep people safe in their homes.

Mark Jenkins.

TrustMark, the government endorsed quality mark for tradesmen, is looking to continue the progress it made in 2012, when its website racked up 3.9 million searches from homeowners looking for trustworthy local tradesmen.

Electricians experienced the largest rise in searches, benefitting from a 28 per cent rise in October compared with the same month last year. Following closely behind were searches for heating engineers, plumbers and glaziers, with many homeowners searching for tradesmen who could carry out urgent work on their properties given the poor weather conditions experienced across the UK.

All of the firms featured on the TrustMark site have had their technical skills independently checked during thorough onsite inspections, ensuring the high quality of the work on offer and the adherence to particular trading practices.

Stuart Carter, head of PR and marketing at TrustMark, said: “With the economy in its current state we are delighted to see such high numbers of viewings from homeowners searching for TrustMark tradesmen, particularly as it shows many still require a professional tradesman to do their work.

“TrustMark tradesmen’s searches have been increasing year on year and this considerable success has been a result of a number of marketing initiatives carried out during 2012 and working in partnership with key consumer organisations such as Citizens Advice, the Trading Standards Institute and National Home Improvement Council who are all signposting people to TrustMark.”          

The service, which has more than 23,000 licensed tradesmen on its database, is proving to be a big help to people looking for a good local firm who can do a great job at a reasonable price. TrustMark also has a simple complaints procedure which makes it easier to resolve any problems.