Small building firms moved closer to claiming their slice of the lucrative Green Deal this week as the Federation of Master Builders revealed plans to take a central role in the scheme.
The FMB is finalising an application to become the operator of a government-backed accreditation scheme that will allow builders to work on the Green Deal.
Small contractors have raised fears they will miss out on work through the retrofitting scheme at the heart of the Energy Bill, which had its second reading in Parliament this week.
But FMB officials revealed they had been discussing plans for the competent persons scheme with Department of Community and Local Government officials for almost a year, and believed the government was now ready to back them to deliver
FMB director of external affairs Brian Berry said: “We will be setting up a scheme open to any builder, who will then have their work inspected and undergo regular training to be able to sign off on projects themselves.
“We are very positive the government will give it the go ahead. The Green Deal is the motor behind the whole agenda [to run
a competent persons scheme]. We hope to finalise our application later in the summer to have the scheme running by April 2012.”
The Green Deal will enable accredited firms to offer consumers energy efficiency improvements to their homes and businesses at no upfront cost, to be recouped through reductions in the energy bills.
As well as covering a wide range of general building work, the FMB’s scheme would allow builders to become accredited to deliver certain Green Deal building works, including the insulation of solid walls and lofts and the replacement of inefficient windows and doors.
The FMB, which represents more than 11,000 small- and medium-sized construction companies across the UK, is also set to lead a delegation of members to discuss with the government next month ways in which small builders can help deliver the Green Deal.
The government has said that the Green Deal could provide 100,000 jobs within five years across the UK. Research
commissioned by the FMB showed that retrofitting the UK’s existing 26 million homes has the potential to add between
£3.5 billion and £6.5bn to the existing housing repairs and maintenance market.
In a further boost this week, the government confirmed there would be no cap on the value of loan available to property owners to deliver energy efficiency measures. Loans will be paid off through reductions in bills over 20 years.
Mr Berry said he was confident that measures to help deliver the Green Deal would be forthcoming in next year’s Budget in time to encourage homeowners to take up the measures.
He said: “We are already lobbying ahead of next year’s Budget in terms of VAT incentives, for example, to try to create a level playing field for smaller contractors.
“By running the competent persons scheme, we will be trying to drive up standards and separate ourselves from cowboy builders.”
Homeowners who choose to implement Green Deal measures through the FMB scheme would be able to take insurance policies as well as having a complaints handling process after work had been carried out.
The scheme would be administered by the FMB but would act as a separate legal entity, with the British Board of Agrément carrying out inspections of registered builders.
Julian Weightman, FMB member and director of Northumberland-based building firm Border Craft Group, said the scheme would be a big boost to legitimate building firms.
He said: “The Green Deal is a great idea in terms of empowering homeowners to improve their homes. But the problem I am finding is that no-one understands how it will work. So even though it could be a good source of work for us, our customers are not enthused by the plan.
“I think the assessor scheme is an excellent idea because you would not believe the [poor] quality of work being done at some of the homes I have seen. The black market has never been so rife and the industry needs more of a structure.”
An FMB survey published last week found that nearly half the body’s members were concerned that major energy companies and retailers would squeeze them out of the Green Deal market. Almost 44 per cent believed that homeowners were unlikely to take advantage of the scheme.