Posted: Tue 1st Aug 2023

Fears new building safety regime is not being prioritised and resourced

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Aug 1st, 2023

An audit report has revealed significant weaknesses in the implementation of building safety measures in Wales, raising concerns about the ability to meet the new requirements of the Building Safety Act 2022. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

It comes years after the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, which led to the deaths of 72 people and prompted the UK government to launch the Hackitt Inquiry—an independent review into building regulations and fire safety. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The inquiry exposed serious and longstanding issues within the current building safety system. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The report indicates that while the UK and Welsh Governments have prioritised improvements in the oversight of building safety to prevent another Grenfell-scale disaster, there is considerable uncertainty about the application of the new scheme. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Despite welcoming changes to Building Control and Building Safety, those tasked with these enhancements are reportedly not well-positioned to implement them. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Consequently, local authorities and fire and rescue services, despite having a good understanding of local building safety risks, lack clarity on how to meet the requirements of the Building Safety Act 2022. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The audit found widespread problems in the building control and building safety profession, including significant staffing challenges, ageing workforce, poor succession planning, and lack of investment in training and development. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

These issues raise concerns about the resilience of local authorities and their ability to deliver their responsibilities effectively. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The report also expressed specific concerns about the financial management of building control. Current practices in some local authorities could be potentially unlawful, as they don’t align with the regulations and guidance. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Auditor General, Adrian Crompton, called the Grenfell Tower fire a national tragedy whose impact is still felt today. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

He said, “My report highlights major concerns with the implementation of the new system for Building Safety. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Although it’s heartening to see the passion and commitment from those working in the sector, I am concerned that not enough priority is being given to these services on the ground.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The report recommends that the Welsh Government and local authorities provide greater clarity on the new Building Safety Act’s implementation, ensure sufficient resources to reduce implementation risks, and increase oversight to provide a robust assurance system for building control and safety. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Responding to today’s Audit Wales report ‘Cracks in the Foundations’ Building Safety in Wales, Mark Isherwood MS, Chair of the Senedd’s Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee said: “Following the tragic events at Grenfell in 2017 it is essential for the Welsh Government to take action to strengthen building safety. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“I therefore welcome changes to building control and building safety measures. However, it is worrying to hear from today’s report that the sector is struggling to respond to the new requirements in the Building Safety Act 2022. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“I am concerned about the significant staffing challenges, ageing workforce, poor succession planning and a lack of investment in training and development highlighted in today’s report. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“I share the Auditor General’s concerns over the financial management of building control, with some authorities’ current practices potentially being unlawful because they do not operate in line with the regulations and guidance. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Across Wales we need services to be resilient and for local authorities to be resourced and adequately staffed to be able to deliver on their important responsibilities to keep people safe. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“As a Committee we’re urging the Welsh Government to accept and implement the Auditor General’s recommendations and we as a Committee will keeping a close eye on the situation on behalf of the people of Wales.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Plaid Cymru spokesperson for housing, Mabon ap Gwynfor MS said: “The report from Audit Wales rightly points out the significant weaknesses under the building safety regime in Wales currently and that more work needs to be done to ensure that the new regime must be properly resourced with a consistency in implementation across Wales. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“The Local Government and Housing Committee is looking into the issue and the evidence that has been brought forward suggest that building safety is like the ‘Wild West’, with developers cutting corners in order to maximise profits, so it’s about time that we see something done about this. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“However, while the new Building Safety Act should be a step in the right direction it is showing up the weaknesses in the devolution settlement with Wales and England diverging on certain issues. The Welsh Government should not be trying to hang on to the coattails of Westminster and should instead be developing primary legislation in Wales, for Wales. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“If the new Building Safety Act is to work and if we are to avoid another Grenfell tragedy then the Conservative Government in London must end their Austerity 2.0 and not skimp on funding these essential services. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Local government funding has been cut to the bone and it’s no wonder that Local Authorities are struggling to fully implement the requirements of the Act because they have other statutory duties that they must fulfil with diminishing resources. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Both Governments must ensure that Local Authorities are properly funded if we are to have faith in building safety standards in Wales and across the UK.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Welsh Conservative Shadow Housing Minister Janet Finch-Saunders MS, said: “The report by the Auditor General for Wales is alarming. It provides a catalogue of evidence that the buildings safety regime in Wales is broken. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“I have long campaigned with building safety victims to try and see their homes made safety, but six years on from the Grenfell tragedy people are still trapped in unsafe homes. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“What we have seen today is that the crisis is far wider and deep rooted than feared. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“The Minister for Climate Change has repeatedly failed to get a grip on building safety in Wales and should be held responsible for the fact that diverging from the UK Government in Wales is having a detrimental impact, at least on victims. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Labour needs to act fast and address all the serious findings from this report. I have long taken a mature approach of working with victims and cross-party. It is time that Welsh Labour did the same too”. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

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