Shoddy building in the TV spotlight again

Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.

Answer me this, gentle reader. Does anyone ever start work in the morning and think to themselves, “I am deliberately going to do a really crap job today. I’m not going to finish anything I start. I’m not going to pay attention to detail or quality. I’m just going to rush through and bodge it all together and leave someone else to sort it out later”?

I’m not talking about the days that we all probably have, where you know you just aren’t on your A game, or even your D game and nothing seems to go right. I’m talking about deliberately setting out to do as bad a job as you possibly can because, well, who knows why.

I’m asking because I watched the Channel 4 Dispatches programme on TV on Monday night and it was, quite frankly, horrifying.

Everyone has bad days at the office where we don’t do as good a job as we’d hoped. But how many people have to be having bad day to leave a Persimmon Homes new build property with 295 snags on the snagging list? These weren’t just the odd crack or damaged pane of glass. These were snags found by a surveyor and 70% of them were below the standards required by the Building Regulations.

The catalogue of errors – fire doors not fitting properly, outside walls 30mm out of alignment when the standard is no more than 8mm, fire barriers not fitted in timber frame houses, every sink in the house leaking, waste traps leaking (yuk)…went on and on.

There are always issues with new-builds, but this programme, coupled with all the news about the amount that Bovis Homes had to set aside to sort out its own, similar problems, makes you wonder what on earth were the Building Inspectors doing? Anyone doing a major project in my neck of the woods lives in abject fear of a visit from one particular inspector who has been known to require complete sets of foundations to be re-dug because they don’t meet his interpretation of the standards. What happened to quality control on these projects? I’m guessing that they were binned because it slows down the process of getting the houses built and sold.  After all, getting those houses signed off and sold is what it’s all about.

Let us not forget, that this is a company who reported a one billion pound profit last year. ONE BILLION POUNDS. Forgive the slip into the Dummies’ Guide to Economics, but that’s the difference between what it cost Persimmon to build and sell the houses and what it sold them for. This is also the company that paid its chief executive a £75million bonus. You’d have thought out of that he could have afforded some media-training instead of walking away from a BBC Look North reporter mid-interview, but maybe that’s just me being picky.

This is also a company that has done phenomenally well out of the Government’s taxpayer-funded Help to Buy scheme; half of all Persimmon’s recent sales have been under Help to Buy, accounting for one in seven of all Help to Buy properties.

Help to Buy did what it needed to do when it needed to do it – boosted sales of new build houses, particularly to first-time-buyers, at a time when the mortgage companies were running scared of lending and deposits were nigh-on impossible. Has it now turned into a licence to print money for housebuilders?


About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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