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Hackitt: Government delay has led to ‘loss of momentum’

31 January 2019 | By Neil Gerrard

Dame Judith Hackitt

Dame Judith Hackitt has spoken of her “regret” that a seven-month delay by the government in announcing that it would back her recommendations to overhaul fire safety and Building Regulations has led to a “loss of momentum”.

Meanwhile, she has urged construction firms not to wait for regulations before changing their behaviour.

Appearing before MPs during a Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee evidence session this week, Hackitt, who now chairs the industry safety steering group, was asked if she was satisfied the recommendations in her independent review would be implemented in full, following the government’s announcement in December.

Hackitt said: “Am I satisfied that the implementation is going to go ahead in full? Yes I am and I am very pleased.”

But she added: “It is a matter of some regret to me that it took seven months to be made public because I think we did lose some momentum. As I made clear at the time when the report was first published, one of the real challenges throughout my review was people saying: ‘But will government implement this?' And it was waiting for that strong signal from government that caused to lose some momentum between May and December. Now we need to get that back.”

Asked if more changes should already have been made to the regulatory system in the 19 months since the Grenfell Tower disaster, Hackitt urged the construction industry not to wait for regulation.

She said: “I recognised at the time of doing the review that the regulatory system would take time to redraft and there is a good deal of work going on.

“I said in my review we did not need to wait for the regulation before people started to change their behaviours. That is what we have been trying to push for and now we have that clear message from government that the regulations are going to be implemented in full there is need for us to underline that. That there really is no reason to wait for the regulation before the behaviour change starts to happen.”

Hackitt explained that her focus as chair of the industry safety steering group was now to ensure that changes in the construction industry were carried through.

So far, the group has had two meetings in September and December 2018. In the second meeting, the group examined how to raise levels of competence in the sector, with the various parties involved telling her they needed more support to do so.

“There is a lot of good work going on in a number of different areas looking at what those competence standards need to be. The challenge comes in trying to make that a coherent cross-industry activity that the rest of us can look at and understand. Thus far there has been far too much time and attention put into setting up some overarching competency body, rather than looking at what does that system need to look like from the user's perspective,” she said.

The steering group will now meet every two months until June. In February the group will hear from early adopters and the Construction Leadership Council, in April it will examine procurement, and June it will look at product safety. It will then produce a report for secretary of state James Brokenshire reporting on the industry’s progress.

Comments

I feel that Judith Hackitt has been steered by the Local government (LABC) without enough input from Approved Inspectors. The idea should be to work through this together and not to punish AI’s for the demise of LABC. The LABC do not have the resources to deliver what is required, this will ultimately result in major delays within the construction industry.
I appreciate that we must move forward to prevent a mayor incident from happening again but we must do this together (incidentally I work for an AI). I don’t feel that Judith has been advised as well as she could have been, I presume she would have had no previous understanding of the building regulations LABC and AI’s which is probably why advice given has been one sided. Let us not forget that it was LABC who dealt with the cladding application for Grenfell. But to assume that AI’s do a lesser of a job than LABC is one for debate, the majority of the AI’s came from LABC . That said, the culture in the construction industry is one of cost rather than life safety, we must work together to change the culture.
Many thanks for reading, just my opinion.

Tanweer Ashraf, 31 January 2019

As now retired, with past offices in LABC, LDSA, Fire Engineering Research Network and other related positions, I have followed at distance the progression of this matter and would comment that LABC, ACAI, Chartered Association of Building Engineers and other professionals known and worked with in my past career have contributed a balanced view of the industry. Therefore, I am of no doubt that they have given their evidence based on their professional experience, so I cannot agree with Tanweer (31st Jan 2019. Whether AI or LABC building control professionals, currently, they are subject to varied rules, building control by statutory notice or building control by private contract and multifarious forms of financing, either public or private. Building Control is based on performance standards, not prescription, therefore can be enforced by differing approaches. May we trust that Central Government ascribes the resources to prevent any re occurrence.

Eur Ing Robert Jones DM CEng FIStructE, 5 February 2019

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