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Ron Pye - Beat the Cowboy Builder

Member Article

Clampdown on Cowboy Builders?

Yesterday Communities Minister Andrew Stunell revealed plans said to clampdown on Cowboy builders.

?Cowboy builders to be up against tougher self-check schemes?

I honestly have to say I do not see anywhere in this report any measures that affect the activities of the actual Cowboy Builders.

What I do see is an expansion of existing schemes that are already in place that relate to builders who take membership with certain companies who run these so called self-check schemes. It would seem to be the case that there are 18 of these organisations operating.

- New measures designed to protect the public from incompetent ?cowboy? builders were announced by the government on Wednesday and given a cautious welcome by MPs.

I am not surprised in the least that it was given a cautious welcome; I cannot see where it bears any relationship to Cowboy Builders. The scheme is aimed at the trades and companies that are registered with companies who operate the self ?check schemes. These companies will have systems in place to check out each individual builder and also charge for their services, it?s the tradesperson who will foot the bill for their services.

Cowboys are Confidence Tricksters; nothing else: they are very articulate and knowledgeable people how on earth could they execute their con if they are involved with a body that would inspect their credentials and their work?

The GOD of Cowboys is CASH, that?s how they operate, cash deals, promises of big savings; they are past masters of it. Cut and run is the motto of the Cowboy?

- Tradesmen who operate self-check schemes, which allow them to assess their own work, will be required to meet higher standards, the Department for Communities and Local Government said. Under this system there are also 18 independent organisations that conduct intermittent prearranged inspections. They will instead conduct unannounced spot-checks, to make the scheme more rigorous.

The standards for all workmanship is already set and cannot be bettered, The British Standards are set in stone. I use them every day against Cowboy builders, and they work.

I would like to see the list of the 18 independent organisations that are going to carry out these checks, I have carried an intensive survey into the problem of the Cowboy Builder over the past two years and I am not aware of them.

I am aware of more than 18 Trade recommendation organisations that offer the services of builders registered with them to the public; I would like to know if these are the people who will carry out these spot checks.

2.5m to 3m jobs per year, we need to do our sums here, how many inspectors have they got to carry out these spot checks, sorry but the figures do not add up to me. The only way the problems can be policed using the suggested methods is, inspection on complaint, once again, after the event has taken place.

If one is to be more rigorous then each individual organisation would have to carry out 1.666,66 inspections per year if all property owners are to be included in this scheme, as they should be to get the protection they require, who on earth has the manpower to do these inspections, 456 inspections per day every day of the year. This has to cost a lot of money and I would like to know where it is coming from. (I already know but one has to ask the question)

- The measures will enforce compulsory financial protection for householders, following a number of cases where self-check installers failed to finish work properly or were tracked down through the courts.

What is being said here is the trades will have to put in place a warrantee, extra insurance cover for the project. Every major trade recommendation site already implement this extra cover. The trade has to take out insurance with an insurance company recommended by them. It is normally part of their terms and conditions.

I operate a consumer HELP LINE to assist the public when they have problems with builders, bad workmanship, unfinished works etc.

I use the existing laws to the full.

The trade or company has sold a service to a member of the public, and as such he/she is governed by the Consumer Protection Act, there is no escape they have to pay or put it right?

- Andrew Gwynne, the Labour MP for Denton and Reddish who has campaigned for greater protection for consumers from cowboy builders, welcomed the move but would want to see the details of the scheme and how it will be funded.

This man is the only one to ask the question about money, how will it be funded?

In the present financial climate the government will not have the money in the coffers to cover this sort of scheme, so somebody has to pay; independent companies are not going to carry out inspections for nothing, so it has to be the trades. What then happens is the trades profits are directly and adversely affected. Trades, naturally, wants that money back over the course of a year, so the trade hides these charges in the price for the works and the customer inadvertently pays.

In case anyone is wondering who I am and why do I disagree with this, I have just finished 40 years in the building industry, 25 as a senior project manager, and I have seen this scam so many times I?ve lost count. I have been handling Cowboys for the last 25 years so I know how they work.

If funding is being given by the government it is only proper for the British public to know how much, and who is getting it. As a member of the public I would also like to hear where the money is coming from.

- The new conditions of authorisation for competent person scheme operators have been published with an impact assessment and the summary of responses to consultation. Membership of a competent person scheme is voluntary. Installers carrying out certain types of work subject to the building regulations may choose to join a relevant scheme if they consider membership to be beneficial.

If new rules are to be brought in why have we not got something substantial, like legislation, licensed builders?

To make this voluntary is a joke, really, how is this going to stop any cowboy operating I just do not know. Cowboys are, quite obviously, not members of any schemes or organisations so they are not bound by their rules and regulations.

It has been said, ?If it?s beneficial_? IT CAN?T BE BENEFICIAL TO A COWBOY, CAN IT?_ So he is not coming to the party.

My prime objective in questioning these new rules/ideas is that it appears to be misleading; the public will read an article of this nature and believe something is being done about the problem when in fact it is not.

Nothing in the world of the Cowboy Builder has changed at all, in fact I would go as far as to say, and let?s not forget we are dealing with very clever people, they are not fools, they will find a way to turn this to their advantage.

To me this is head in the sand management of a problem nobody seems to have the answer to.

In our experience, dealing with this on a daily basis, I would say that less than 5% per year of Cowboy Builders are caught, prosecuted and stopped from trading. When they are caught they do make headlines, but they are shadowy slippery people, catching them is hard unless we have concrete measures in place to stop the problem before it happens. We are never going to be at a position where Cowboys are eliminated from the equation, but a 5% return can surely be greatly improved upon.

I have spent the last two years studying this problem in detail and what has to be realised is this fact.

This problem will not be controlled as long as the public are prepared to deal in CASH. Herein lays the problem.

We run a company Beat The Cowboy Builder that effectively combats the activities of the Cowboy Builder, we have a project management guide that tells the public how to protect themselves. We also have a consultative Help Line that provides the public, who find themselves in trouble, direction and recommendation on what to do about their situation.

I am confident that following our guide will effectively stop ANY Cowboy builder accessing any project.

We also provide a trade linked data base where people who obtain our guide, can link to and be put in touch with, a bona fide, registered, trade in their own town or City.

What is severely lacking is the education of the public on this problem, they have nowhere to turn, they have to trust somebody or nothing would get done, this trust is abused by the Cowboy builder.

This is the main reason I have written our Project Management Guide, it gives protection, direction and allows the client to manage his own build in his own comfort zone, he is in charge, he calls the shots.

In closing I have to say I have lived and worked through several of the so called recessions we currently find ourselves in and the end result is always the same, we will have lost good trades that will not return to the industry, they have families and need the security of a job, so the door is once again open to expansion on this problem, I can assure you more Cowboys will come to town, it happens after every recession.

Ron Pye.

Managing Director.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Ron Pye - Beat the Cowboy Builder .

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