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It is different this time

Hips Fiasco Descends Into Farce As Trainer Pulls Out

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The troubled introduction of home information packs took a farcical turn today when one of the biggest trainers of energy assessors pulled out of the business and sacked more than 100 staff.

It also emerged that ministers have agreed to meet out-of-work assessors who are threatening to take legal action to recover their training costs. Yesterday the number of disgruntled domestic energy assessors grew substantially when a company jointly run by the estate agency chain Connells said it was no longer prepared to invest in the venture.

Energy-assessors.com said it has laid off around 100 fully trained staff who were due to start providing energy assessments of homes for Hips on June 1. Several other companies have already laid off staff after deciding that Hips may never come to the market as they were originally intended.

A shortage of trained energy assessors was one of the main reasons that the introduction of Hips was delayed last month to the beginning of August.

Stephen Callaghan, director of energy-assessors.com, said: "Regrettably, in light of the government's announcement last month on the future of home information packs our joint venture partners have decided that no further investment in this company is considered appropriate at this uncertain time. We see no future in employing assessors ourselves."

In a separate move it also emerged yesterday that a number of surveyors have demanded that the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors withdraw its legal challenge to their implementation.

It was Rics's threat of a judicial review two weeks ago that forced local government minister Ruth Kelly to delay Hips' introduction, and to initially limit their scope to houses with four bedrooms or more.

More than 300 surveyors are thought to have signed a petition demanding that the Rics hierarchy withdraw the challenge that sparked the original delay. They have argued that they were not properly consulted. Rics's judicial review was brought because it said the government had not consulted it properly.

Mike Ockenden, director general of the Association of Hips Providers, said he was not expecting any more sackings of energy assessors. "If firms were planning to do so, I think they would have done it by now. Yes, the whole thing is in a bit of a mess, but I'm confident the government is still committed to their introduction. I still fully expect Hips to be required on all homes sold by the end of the year."

He said there were now 900 trained inspectors that were "fully accredited and ready to start inspecting houses". This is significantly higher than the 520 of two weeks ago, but well short of the government's target of 2,000.

On Monday Ms Kelly will meet a delegation of energy inspectors in an attempt to placate them. Many who spent around £9,000 on training are considering suing the government. Just 18% of houses sold have four or more bedrooms.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: "The proposals we set out will mean the energy assessors will be able to begin work shortly on properties with four bedrooms or more."

I wonder what the hell Ms Kelly will say to those who spent around £9,000 on training and could be jobless after all. She could be honest and tell the truth.

"Sorry guys as a government we are weak & incompetent and well beaten by VI. I guess you lot need to find another job as we are not capable of standing up against VI"

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