LGA urges government to cover fire safety work costs
THE LOCAL Government Association (LGA) has recommended the government cover ‘unexpected exceptional’ costs for fire safety work on behalf of councils.
24Housing reported on the views of the LGA, which stated that the government has ‘acted on explanations given several months ago to provide clarity on building safety’, but that it now needs to meet the ‘unexpected exceptional’ costs for councils undertaking fire safety upgrades, major remedial work and essential measures.
Chairman Lord Porter stated that the association ‘explained to the government several months ago’ that documentation would need revising to ‘provide clarity for building owners seeking to replace flammable cladding’. Today, the government launched a consultation that would look at ‘restricting or banning’ the use of desktop studies in assessments of cladding system fire performance on residential buildings.
Lord Porter commented: ‘Currently, if no fire test data exists for a particular cladding system, a desktop study can be submitted. We have consistently said that desktop studies cannot substitute for real-world tests of cladding systems – including in our evidence to the Hackitt Review. We urge the Government to hold firm against industry pressure that seeks to allow their continued use. Councils have acted quickly to put in safety measures in their high-rise blocks to reassure residents.
‘With a large number of high-rise buildings affected by fire safety test fails owned by private landlords, councils continue to work hard to support building owners in their area to deal with the issue and to try and confirm with the owners of thousands of private high-rise residential buildings to identify the cladding and insulation systems on those blocks.
‘While councils will continue to get on with what they need to do and are ready to play a leading role in making sure a new system of building regulation works, significant funding concerns remain. Government needs to meet the unexpected exceptional costs for councils arising from conducting fire safety and major remedial work and for any essential fire and safety measures needed.’
The government noted that the consultation includes ‘tough new rules designed to strengthen fire testing for cladding systems on residential buildings’, and its aim is to ‘improve building safety’, while looking at ‘restricting or banning the use of “desktop studies” as a way of assessing the fire performance of external cladding systems’.
In turn, it pointed out that the changes ‘come directly as a result’ of Dame Judith Hackitt’s interim report recommendations, as part of her review of building regulations and fire safety, and the government claimed that it is ‘going further’ by asking if desktop studies ‘should be used at all’. The consultation seeks views on whether such studies are ‘appropriate for all construction products, wall systems (cladding) or for any other purpose’.
If the studies are deemed appropriate, proposed changes include ‘improving the transparency of assessments, enabling proper scrutiny of results and ensuring that the studies can only be carried out by properly accredited bodies that have the relevant expertise’. The full consultation will end on 25 May this year, and once received the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) will consider all the comments’ and ‘provide a response as soon as possible’.