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Prosecution rate must rise



I FAIL to see why we need 'Tougher penalties to drive out the cowboys' (Construction News, April 27) when according to your report only 17 prosecutions ensued from the 69,869 complaints received by trading standards in a 12-month period.

Wouldn't it be more expedient to catch a few more of these rogues and then use the existing laws to ensure they compensate their victims and are then fined or imprisoned?

The government's proposal to address this problem, the Quality Mark, is totally impracticable. The bulk of refurbishment, maintenance and improvement work is carried out by 300,000-plus builders with fewer than five employees.

Apart from the registration fee of £500 a year they would be required to have: accreditation for business management; NVQs for the many skills necessary; compliance with thousands of standards and all statutory requirements; financial probity; provision of financial accounts and validation of tax status; not to mention compliance over health and safety.

All these requirements are totally alien to a small builder and the cost of them, including the loss of productive time, would be prohibitive and would play into the hands of the shadow economy.

I don't want to be unkind, but are builders the only cowboys? Is only 17 prosecutions from 69,869 complaints a satisfactory record? Or should trading standards try harder?

David Brown Building spokesman

Federation of Small Businesses

London SW1