Derbyshire County Council has unveiled plans to increase the price it charges painters, plasters, scaffolders and other companies to be on its Trusted Trader scheme.
It has proposed the price hike to counter falling subscriber numbers and because it needs to find more cash.
As part of joining the scheme, a builder, construction or plumbing company would gain a Trusted Trader tick mark to display on their vehicles, website and premises, indicating that they are honest and reliable and that they carry out good work for a fair price.
In 2013, the fee for a sole trader or social enterprise to sign up to the scheme was £38 per year, while the cost for larger companies was £54.
These charges were raised to £50 and £75 respectively the following year and to £70 and £100 the year after that.
This triggered a fall in the number of companies and traders signing up to the programme.
Losing this status may have given the impression that these traders were no longer trusted.
In 2013 there were 1,296 members in the scheme. There are now 1,132.
However, due to “ongoing reductions in funding for local authorities” and despite being “likely that an increase in fees will result in a further reduction in the number of members of the scheme”, the county council is set to increase the charges again.
This year’s subscription fee for sole traders and social enterprises will rise to £75, followed by £80 in 2019, £85 in 2020 and £90 in 2021.
Meanwhile, the annual charge for larger businesses will rise to £110 this year, followed by £120 in 2019, £130 in 2020 and £140 in 2021.
Keith Cullen, owner of Derbyshire Locksmiths, based in Littleover and established in 1994, signed up to the scheme five years ago.
He feels that the proposed increase would not push him away from the scheme, first established in November 2008.
Mr Cullen said: “It is one of the best schemes that I have been part of.
“People can look at the reviews for the service, the good and the bad, and they can make a judgement based on that. The increase sounds like it is on a par with what it has been in the past and should be no big deal.”
Andrew Morbey, owner of Derbyshire Electrical Contracting, based in Hadfield, has been a member of the scheme for nine years.
He said: “It is an inevitable and disappointing shame and it wouldn’t be the case if local government was funded properly.
“It is still good value for money but it is still disappointing.
“The way I see it, it is the bigger picture you have to look at and I’d rather pay more and keep the county’s social services and libraries rather than lose them.
“It’s a good service and has driven some extra customers to me and it is good for all the people who use it, local businesses and residents.”
The authority currently gives subscribers to the scheme three months’ before any proposed charge increases but it is proposing that this is reduced to one month.
Derbyshire County Council stated that the fall in membership numbers (16 per cent) was “not surprising” but stated that total income from 2013 to 2017 had surged.
Despite falling subscribers, the income which the authority has generated from the scheme has risen from £44,100 to a high of £82,986 in 2016 – the current annual income is £79,005.
The proposal, set to be debated on Thursday, June 7, would see the charges increase from September 7 this year.
A report on the issue stated: “Given the financial challenges faced by the authority, it is important to seek to maximise income from discretionary services such as the Derbyshire Trusted Trader Scheme.
“It is likely that an increase in fees will result in a further reduction in the number of members of the scheme, however, providing the drop-out rate is less than 10 per cent, there should be an increase in income.
“The greater the increase in fee, the higher the potential drop-out is likely to be and there is a risk that the benefits to the community – or social value – will fall if the public have fewer Trusted Traders to choose from.
“The original objective of the Scheme was to provide the public with access to local, reputable businesses prepared to do a decent job for a fair price and to dissuade local consumers from dealing with itinerant trades people who arrive unsolicited offering to provide goods and services ‘on the doorstep’.
“It should also be noted that in November 2018, Derbyshire County Council has the opportunity to celebrate 10 years since the launch of the Derbyshire Trusted Trader Scheme. It is suggested that local traders should be reminded of the benefits of joining the scheme.”
The authority states that in 2015, when membership numbers were higher, the average turnover of businesses in the scheme was £283,000 – with a total of £365 million worth of business generated by companies and traders which pay for the accreditation.
It states that small businesses may not decide to renew their subscription to avoid paying the higher charge while larger companies are more likely to continue.
Eddie Bisknell , Local Democracy Reporting Service