Net labour rates in body shops are falling, according to figures from the Motor Vehicle Repairers' Association.

It carried out a benchmarking exercise among its quality assured bodyshop members and found that average hourly rates were currently £19.90, compared to £20.92 in the last quarter of 1999.

Mike Monaghan, managing director of the MVRA, said: “This figure is surprising, especially in today's climate where repairers seem more determined than ever to hold out for higher labour rates.

However, the results confirm our belief that bodyshops are still suffering and that things aren't getting any better.”

Monaghan said some insurers had shown a willingness to increase their rates, but at the same time more demands were being made by insurers on motor repairers.

The MVRA had known of the falling hourly rate for some time, Monaghan said, and this had led to the establishment of an en-hanced quality-assured bodyshop programme.

“The ethos of the programme was to reward bodyshops that continually invest in their businesses and constantly improve efficiency with a higher rate of pay.”

Monaghan said he hoped the latest figures would serve as evidence to insurers that action needed to be taken and that if rates were increased across the board, then MVRA quality-assured bodyshops at least would benefit.