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European Scene: June 2012

Down the regulatory rabbit hole

June 25, 2012  By John Roper

So, let’s say you want to join an exclusive club, and let’s say the club
would be happy to accept you. But first you have to provide the club
with some personal details.

So, let’s say you want to join an exclusive club, and let’s say the club would be happy to accept you. But first you have to provide the club with some personal details. “No problem,” you say. “What do you need to know?”

Well, here is a problem: the club is not allowed to tell you. Its own regulatory association – let’s call it UKLUB – says that it is the job of applicants to know what information they need to provide. Clubs are not allowed to tell them or to help them accumulate the necessary documents.
Ridiculous? Of course. That is, until you factor in the British government and, more particularly, the British civil service.

In the U.K. we have government-regulated schemes which tradesmen are encouraged to join called “competent persons schemes.” The idea is that, whether you are an electrician, plumber or window fitter (or work in any other trade, for that matter), you are pre-approved by your scheme to self-approve your work and issue any necessary certificates. The competent persons scheme then spot-checks its members’ work. It all seemed to work well until the government decided to add another overseeing body to accredit the competent persons schemes that accredit the tradesmen. Meet UKAS: the United Kingdom Accreditation Service. Once it got its teeth into things, the situation began to resemble the one described above.


It has a lot to do with the British government’s flagship energy-saving scheme, the Green Deal.

For a company to be involved in the Green Deal, it will need to be a member of a competent persons scheme and that scheme will need to be approved by UKAS. But to join a competent persons scheme you have to fulfill certain criteria. Take a look at the top of the page to find out how this is handled.

Now, if I heard the recent Queen’s speech correctly, the government is talking about reducing red tape. Legislation will be introduced to reduce burdens on business by repealing unnecessary legislation and limiting state inspections. Of course the government has said this before but all we seem to see are more parasitic organisations overseeing more regulations. Who will keep an eye on UKAS? (How about BOR – British Overseers of Regulators?)

I happen to think that whoever came up with the Green Deal in the first place is barking mad. The idea is to improve the insulation in our leaky, drafty, old houses. Not a bad plan you might think; the U.K. has lots of those, indeed I have one myself. If my house were to be assessed by an accredited “assessor” to be suitable for the scheme then a “provider” would appoint an “installer” to carry out the work. There was even a suggestion that if, for instance, you asked a company to fit a new door and there was other insulation work needed to improve the property then you could not have the door unless all of the other work was carried out as well.

Under the Green Deal, financing for the work will be provided by approved finance companies at, apparently, a “low” rate of interest. The loan is credited to the house and paid for through an increased energy bill. Only someone as detached from the world as a politician or a senior civil servant could believe that someone would willingly buy a house with a built-in debt. There are many over here that think the Green Deal will give a huge boost to our industry. If it does produce more business that will be great, but it looks like the scheme will be tied up in red tape and could turn into a jobs-for-the-boys charter. The “installer” is appointed by the “provider” who in turn will be appointed by the “advisor” – it seems wide open to abuse. And the “installer” must be a member of a competent persons scheme . . . though no one is allowed to say what information he or she might have to provide in order to be so deemed.
It is a bloody mad world!

John Roper is the editor for The Installer, The Fabricator, The
Conservatory Installer and Glass Works magazine published in the U.K.

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