Polish plumbers return – are they good plumbers ?

Polish workers are racing back to Britain to take advantage of the jobs market as the economy climbs out of recession, figures showed yesterday.

The number of Poles and other Eastern Europeans working in this country has reached a record as more than 100,000 have arrived this year.

And numbers from India are up by a quarter. The growing influx means that almost half the jobs created this year have gone to foreign nationals.

In total, 138,000 foreign workers have benefited from the strengthening economy and increasing availability of jobs, while 163,000 British citizens have found fresh employment.

The figures also cast a major question mark over claims that it is unfair to cut benefits for British people who are unemployed because there are no jobs available.

Citizens in Eastern Europe were given the right to work freely in Britain when their countries joined the EU in 2004.

Most work in lower-income jobs, from catering and crop-picking to plumbing and building.

But the numbers working here fell sharply during the recession, the figures from the Office for National Statistics show.

At the end of last year there were 472,000, a drop of 30,000 from the highest point.
The latest surveys show that there are now nearly 600,000 Eastern Europeans employed in Britain.

The total of 582,000 at the end of September means 110,000 Poles and other Eastern Europeans have found jobs in Britain in nine months – a 23 per cent increase.

Home improvements: polycarbonate roofs

LIGHT FANTASTIC

Q We are interested in buying a converted barn. It has a kind of conservatory at one end of the kitchen with double-glazed windows and a polycarbonate roof. This kind of roof is needed to give sufficient light to the room but I’m concerned we will lose a lot of heat through it during the winter. Is there a cost-effective solution which will provide both light and energy saving? J E, by email

A It depends what you mean by cost-effective, I suppose. Any material that allows the passage of light also allows the passage of heat. The latest high-performance sealed glazed units (solar glass outer pane, argon filling, heat-reflective inner pane) have a thermal insulation value around one third that of an insulated roof and cost from £12 to £16 per square metre.

Compared with the existing polycarbonate sheet, they might save enough energy to pay for themselves in 10 years or so. Although my sources tell me that the argon gas filling will have leaked out long before that and you will have no way of telling that it has gone. And of course unless the glazing is installed according to British Standard 6262, in drained, vented rebates, then the units will also have misted up internally before reaching the payback date.

Regardless of the economics, however, I would advise you to have the roof glazed. Otherwise the sound of rain drumming on the polycarbonate roof will drive you to distraction.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE between plastering sand and building sand?

Most builders’ merchants stock three types: washed coarse sharp sand for floor screeds; washed fine sharp sand for plastering; and unwashed soft “building sand” for bricklaying mortar. The latter is often orange/yellow, due to high silt content, and came into common use post-1945 with the rise in cement mortars (cement and sharp sand mortar is not “fatty” enough to be spread by a trowel). Building sand is too soft for plastering and will soon crack or weather away.

Send your questions to Jeff Howell at Life, The Sunday Telegraph, 111 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 0DT, email askjeff@telegraph.co.uk