Mayor scammed by his own deputy in building con

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Mike Kennedy, the Mayor of Winsford, was left thousands of pounds out of pocket, after being scammed by his own deputy. Deputy Mayor Paul Jones claimed to run a successful building firm, so Kennedy paid him £1,600 up-front to do repairs to the roof of his garage. After 18 months of delays, he was forced to pay a second firm for the work.

Now the truth has emerged.

The Daily Mail reported that Kennedy paid Jones (36 and now from Ellesmere Port) to do repairs to stop rainwater leaking through his garage roof, after hearing his colleague speak about his successful building business.

However, after taking the money and putting a tarpaulin over the roof, Jones failed to put in a single day's work. After 18 months, Kennedy lost patience and called Trading Standards. They discovered that the successful building firm was a fiction, and Jones had no staff.

During that period be also took £730 from another homeowner, but never completed the work on her home either. He also resigned as Deputy Mayor, citing personal reasons.

He pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation. The Winsford Guardian reported that Jones will have to pay £7,000 compensation - £4,250 of which will go to Kennedy, £730 to the other homeowner, £2,295 to prosecution costs, and an £80 victim surcharge. He was also sentenced to six weeks in prison - which was suspended for 12 months and given a 12 month community supervision order.

However, this will come as no comfort to the Mayor, because the money will be paid back at the paltry level of £5 a week from Jones' benefits. Jones is currently in £40,000 of debt and considering bankruptcy.

Protect yourself

It's highly unusual for someone to try to rip off someone they work so closely with. However, sadly, it's not at all uncommon to fall prey to a cowboy builder. A survey by Sainsbury's Home Insurance found that 6.2 million people in Great Britain have fallen foul of cowboy traders in the past five years.

They paid an average of £2,077 for sub-standard work, then had to pay nearly £600 to either repair the damage or complete the unfinished job. This equates to nearly £3.7 billion over the last five years.

It goes to show how important it is to plan carefully before employing a builder. There are five easy steps which will help protect you.

1. Start with your research. Ask friends and neighbours for recommendations of trustworthy tradespeople.
2. Look them up online. You need to check they are who they say they are, that they are a member of a reputable trade body such as the Federation of Master Builders, and that there are no complaints about their work.
3. Ask for references. Make sure you visit someone who has had work done, rather than relying on a quick phone call which could be fabricated.
4. Get at least three quotes in writing and check them in detail. Make sure they are quotes for exactly the work you requested, and be skeptical about any that are significantly cheaper than the others.
5. Do not pay anything up-front. A quality builder will be able to afford materials. If it's a major job you can agree to pay in stages as each section of the work is done, but never pay for work until it is completed to your satisfaction.