THE LEADER of the Government's TrustMark anti-cowboy builder initiative said there has been massive interest in the scheme since it was launched to the public in January.
Chairman Ian Livsey added there had been more than 64,000 visits to TrustMark's website, with 60 per cent involving a search for an approved tradesman.
Mr Livsey said: 'People are mainly searching for builders, electricians and plumbers, in that order.
'We have been bowled over by the public response. Since the launch we commissioned a MORI poll which showed a 16 per cent awareness of TrustMark, whereas our initial expectations were around the 5 per cent mark.' TrustMark has around 6,500 members signed up through 10 trade associations that act as approved scheme operators.
The initiative aims to have 25,000 firms on board by April 2007, when DTI funding for the initiative runs out.
Chief executive Chris Blythe, who administers the scheme through the Chartered Institute of Builders, said: 'The idea is that TrustMark will be self-funding.
We are looking at ways to bring in wider industry sponsorship to help promote the scheme.' Mr Livsey added: 'In the longer term we will also be seeking discussions with the Association of British Insurers and hopefully look at the possibility of TrustMark builders paying lower premiums. Firms in this scheme are more reputable and are likely to be making fewer claims anyway.' Last week Ilford MP Linda Perham joined the TrustMark board to represent consumer interests.
TrustMark is in discussions with charities such as Age Concern over another board member to help raise awareness of the scheme among elderly people more vulnerable to exploitation.
Mr Livsey also made presentations to MPs on the all-party parliamentary roofing group last week and will hold talks with the new construction minister, Margaret Hodge.