Charlie Mullins and team: round up the industry's cowboys.

Mullins calls for licensing to eradicate ‘cowboy tradesmen’

Published:  09 August, 2011

LONDON: Charlie Mullins, founder of Pimlico Plumbers who employs more than 150 fully-trained and highly experienced tradespeople, believes that licensing will not only provide essential protection for consumers, but also increase revenue for the Treasury.

Mr Mullins estimates that around half of the small building works carried out in the UK are done on the black economy with unscrupulous tradespeople paying no income tax, VAT or National Insurance.

To end this practice he recommends an amalgamation of the systems used in the US and Spain. In the US every plumber has to have a licence. Without a licence they cannot work.

In Spain, the liability is on the customer and if they are found employing someone who is operating illegally they, rather than the tradesperson can be fined or in certain circumstances receive a prison sentence.

Mr Mullins said: “We have so many cowboys in the UK is pretty much our own fault. The whole thing is a mess and no-one had ever really seriously tried to tame it – a bit like the Wild West. This has only led to a boat load of shoddy workmanship and valuable tax being diverted from the public purse into the cowboys’ pockets.

“What we need in plumbing, and across the building services industry in general, is a proper licensing system. Introducing a US-style system with a touch of the Spanish legislation would sort out the cowboys in no time.”

Mr Mullins added: “For the cynics who think introducing this system to protect the public is important enough on its own, they should consider it in terms of tax revenue. I reckon half of the building work done in this country in performed either part or entirely on the black economy. Put simply, cowboys don’t pay tax, VAT or National Insurance.

“Get the cowboys out and train more quality tradespeople. Without the cowboys the industry has more credibility and the exchequer and the UK public are both the winners here. It’s the only way to clean things up.”

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