Committee urges funding based on risk not height

Latest News Tue, May 4, 2021 8:21 AM

A new Housing Select Committee report proposes a Comprehensive Building Safety Fund focused on risk and a raft of other recommendations to deal with the cladding crisis.

In the report, Cladding Remediation Follow-up, the Committee calls for a Comprehensive Building Safety Fund that:

  • applies to all high-risk buildings of any height, irrespective of tenure
  • covers all fire safety defects, including combustible insulation
  • covers all associated costs.

The Select Committee report says that the government should establish the principles on how the costs for cladding remediation should be split between government and industry.

Welcoming the additional £3.5bn announced in February, the Committee says it falls well short of the estimated £15bn that will be required for all fire safety remediation works.

The Committee position on the cladding crisis is unambiguous: “It has been our unwavering position that leaseholders should bear no cost whatsoever for the remediation of building safety defects that were not of their making.”

The opportunity for the Fire Safety Bill to enshrine this principle in law was lost earlier this week when the Bill passed its final stage in Parliament and received Royal Assent on 29 April.

The 29 page Select Committee report focuses on the scale of the problem of fire safety defects, how they should be paid for and the impacts on the housing market and mental health of leaseholders and tenants.

Highlights from the report include:

  • Government should publish a monthly data release on the number of buildings with non-ACM cladding and other serious fire safety defects awaiting remediation
  • A proposed loan scheme that would have seen leaseholders contribute up to £50 per month to pay for remediation works should be scrapped
  • The developer levy and tax should be extended and should serve as an additional contribution to the Comprehensive Building Safety Fund
  • The waking watch relief fund should be extended to cover all interim fire safety costs in all high-risk buildings
  • The government should set a deadline for the insurance industry to act to resolve the problem of eye-watering building insurance premiums
  • On EWS1 forms and guidance, the government should report back to the Select Committee with its assessment of the impact of fire safety remediation on the wider housing market
  • Social housing providers should have full and equal access to government funds for remediation
  • The government should work with local authorities to ensure that affected residents have access to the physical and mental health support they need

The Select Committee asks the government to respond to the report before the Building Safety Bill is introduced into Parliament.

Meanwhile, the Fire Safety Bill receives Royal Assent and is now an Act of Parliament, leading to major changes to fire safety in response to the Grenfell Tower fire.

The Fire Safety Act 2021 provides the legal basis for meeting some of the recommendations from Sir Martin Moore-Bick’s Grenfell Inquiry Phase 1 report.

The Act makes changes to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, known as the Fire Safety Order.

It’s not the end of the process, as much of the content of the Act requires a further series of regulations to be made under the Fire Safety Order and they will need to be consulted on over the coming months.

In a huge blow to the End our Cladding Scandal campaign and the thousands of affected leaseholders, it does not include a provision that would see leaseholders not pay for remedial works to remove dangerous cladding from their buildings.

The Act makes good a long-standing issue about who is responsible for the fire safety of communal doors, external walls and anything attached, such as balconies. It also allows for further changes to be made to which premises are covered by the Fire Safety Order in the future - so that they won’t require any more primary legislation (i.e. another Act of Parliament).

It also toughens up the status of related guidance.

In future, those responsible for the fire safety of a building will have to share information about the external walls with the local fire and rescue service.

Building owners or managers will also have to inspect flat entrance doors annually and lifts monthly, telling the local fire and rescue service if there are any faults with lifts.

All residents of buildings which have two or more flats will have to have access to evacuation and fire safety instructions provided by the building owner or manager.

In a new development, a public register of fire risk assessments will be established. It’s not clear who will manage the register, but the detail on this is likely to emerge through the consultation on the regulations that have to be in place to allow this to work.

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