Full story: Support for Housebuilding should be chancellor's priority says CBI

It was roughly three years ago when the Government announced there was a considerable sum of money that was to be used for social housing building programmes. At the time of the announcement I was uplifted to think that the prospect could bring about an end to the recession. And being a country that isn't known for production, the only way we can produce a financial economy that breaks a recession is by a large scale house building programme.

With all the products used to build homes and all the new products that go into them, the wages earned by the construction workers goes back into the economy. Throughout my career on the tools, I was fortunate to go through two bad recessions - one in the late 80s and then another in the 90s, both of which I was constantly working within the M25 area doing new build work. I personally feel that, and the CBI agree, our most instant way to relieve this recession is to undertake a 50,000 new build affordable home project. If the Government had started their own social housing programme back then, things wouldn't have turned out the way they are today.

- Mark Lewis

Thinking of going self-employed? Need to join a Competent Person scheme? Well if you don't have the current entry requirements (an electrical installation qualification, 17th Edition Wiring Regulation qualification plus anything else your chosen scheme requires of you), you may well encounter problems if you haven't applied for membership by 6th April 2013.

As of this date entry requirements to a Competent Person scheme are changing. You will need a level 3 NVQ that includes installing electrical installations, Inspection and Testing of electrical installations and Ensuring Compliance of Electrical Installations with building regulations.

Sounds easy? A number of awarding bodies have produced relevant qualifications, but the problem will be the time it will take people to achieve the required level of competence and produce a portfolio as the proof that all the elements have been covered. I would suggest that you will be looking at 18+ months to put the portfolio together!

The knock-on effect of this will be that no one will be eligible to join a Competent Person scheme for some time, causing a void in so-called competent persons. Home owners may find it difficult to find existing electricians that are prepared to take on small jobs - such as installing extra sockets (these are the kind of jobs newly qualified persons use to gain experience), as the current competent electricians will be looking for bigger contracts.

Does this mean home owners will be more tempted to "have a go" themselves? Causing mistakes to be made that could result in dangerous situations occurring? Possibly!

- Mark Jenkins

Today at Access Training we are celebrating World Plumbing Day not only across our plumbing courses, but also what it means to become a plumber and the importance it has.

In the UK it's quite easy to take for granted the benefit of having safe drinking water and functioning sanitation systems. However many countries do not have this luxury, and following the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake and 2011 Japan tsunami (which happened 2 years ago today) it has become clear just how far the advancement in plumbing has come over the years and the devastation it can cause when it is taken away.

World Plumbing Day is an event initiated by the World Plumbing Council to be held on March 11th every year, celebrating the role plumbing plays in the health and safety of modern society. According to research, preventable diseases related to water and sanitation claim about 3.1 million lives a year, most of them children under the age of 5. Of these, around 1.6 million die of diseases associated with a lack of safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.

By training to become a plumber, you are not only giving yourself a job and skill for life. You are providing a service which mankind has depended on for centuries and is constantly improving not just to make our lives better, but to also improve humanity's impact on the environment. Though its often underappreciated by the general public, plumbers play a huge role in keeping people safe and healthy every day.

There may only be one World Plumbing Day a year, but that doesn't mean we should only appreciate plumbers once a year.

For more information on Access Training's range of plumbing courses, contact us at 0800 345 7492.

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.

It will come as news to some of you that there is such a thing as a Considerate Contractors Scheme (CCS) in existence, which is due to publish its new code of practice in the new year, with the aim of making considerate contractors of us all.

The new regulations, which have been in development for the past three years, take the form of a five-point code. All CCS-registered sites and companies will be assessed against this code by scheme monitors, who will be charged with checking all registered sites and companies, as well as reporting and scoring the visit.

The new code, due to be implemented as of 1 January 2013, will replace the eight-point code which has remained largely unchanged for the past 15 years. However, with the expected standards having changed over the years, it is time raise the bar, with so many sites easily meeting the requirements of the code.

So, as of the new year, the five sections of the code will include:

•    Enhancing the appearance
•    Respecting the community
•    Protecting the environment
•    Securing safety
•    Caring for the workforce

To give contractors a thorough understanding of the new code, each section will be accompanied by an aspirational statement, along with four bullet points which list the areas the scheme considers within that section.

The latest incarnation of the Considerate Contractors Scheme is to introduce a scoring system, which scores each section out of a maximum 10 points. 5 points for each section signifies compliance, whilst a score of 10 signifies that registered sites or companies have introduced innovative practices or thinking that goes far beyond the expectations of the scheme, working to advance the standards by which the industry is judged.

Scheme chief executive Edward Hardy said: “After three years in development, the scheme is pleased to publish the new code and supporting documents. Working with a number of contractors and clients throughout the review process, the scheme is confident that the new code remains in keeping with the industry’s values, presenting an exciting challenge for registered sites and companies in raising the benchmark of considerate construction.”

Get in touch to learn more about our training courses!

First Name *
Surname *
Telephone Number *
E-mail address *
Ask A Question *
 
Security Character Security Character Security Character Security Character Security Character Security Character
Enter Letters (No Spaces) *