LABC slams government over approved inspectors
A building inspector at work (Image: LABC)
Local Authority Building Control (LABC) has expressed “deep concern” about rumoured government plans to allow approved inspectors a continued role in the regulation of high-risk residential buildings (HRRBs).
LABC claimed it has heard from a senior official at the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) that approved inspectors would continue to be involved in regulating in-scope buildings.
While LABC recognised that Dame Judith Hackitt envisaged retaining the expertise of approved inspectors through a consultancy or compliance support role for dutyholders in her independent review of Building Regulations and fire safety, it highlighted her call for a “single, streamlined regulatory route for the provision of building control…with oversight solely provided through Local Authority Building Control”.
It claimed that it now appears private sector inspectors “have been elevated to full independent regulatory involvement”.
It is also angry that in the current consultation, Dame Judith Hackitt’s recommendation of a Joint Competent Authority (JCA), made up of LABC, fire and rescue authorities and the Health and Safety Executive will be dropped. Instead of the JCA, the government is looking at creating a new Building Safety Regulator. LABC said it had been informed that an existing, unnamed national regulator has been told to take control of the implementation and private sector organisations are expected to be involved in the compliance process.
Lorna Stimpson, LABC’s deputy chief executive said: “MHCLG is currently consulting on proposals to reform the building safety regulatory system. We have contributed thousands of hours of voluntary help to officials who said that they were implementing all 53 recommendations of the Hackitt Review. But now we are told two of the Review’s main pillars – a single strong undisputed regulator and the removal of choice from those who regulate high risk projects – have been completely undermined by this new policy switch.”
She added: “This switch also undermines the consultation, which is framed in terms of how the MHCLG is implementing all 53 Hackitt recommendations. The failure to explain ministry intentions for the new regime will allow the civil service to claim the consultation is supported by industry – but support for what? This is a sleight of hand. They haven’t declared that competing interests will remain at the centre of high-risk regulation.”
Paul Everall, LABC chief executive, said: “As a former senior civil servant I’m disappointed and saddened to see this consultation weakened by the ministry’s lack of transparency. The structure has been deliberately obscured to give maximum freedom to civil servants. It isn’t possible for responders to question this because feedback has been focussed on pre-set questions – you can’t question something that’s not revealed. Clearly there’s an agenda here – which is ensure a role for private sector consultants in building safety regulation that is at odds with the recommendations of Dame Judith.”
But a spokesperson for MHCLG said: ““We do not recognise these claims - there has been an independent review of building safety reforms and the government has set out its response clearly in the current consultation document.”
MHCLG added that the LABC is “fully involved” in the work as a member of the Joint Regulators Group.
LABC is now seeking urgent meetings with MHCLG and Dame Judith to make clear its “deep concerns” over the perceived new direction and what LABC termed its “inherent risks to life safety”. It is also briefing its 3,500-strong network and encouraging them to lobby their politicians, as well as urging them to take part in the government’s ongoing consultation.