Firefighters fear lack of fire inspectors to tackle building safety
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has criticised the government for a “gross underestimate” of the number of fire inspectors needed under the new Fire Safety Bill, which will extend responsibility for fire services to inspect and enforce fire safety in the common parts of all England’s multi-occupancy buildings.
The fire services will be expected to inspect building structures, external walls, stairs and doors between residences.
But the FBU said the government expected to fund just 12 extra staff to carry out inspections in more than two million homes, from a pot of £700,000 a year. The maximum estimated spend is £2.1m, which would pay for 35 inspectors – less than one per brigade in England. It called for an immediate doubling of inspectors and a statutory advisory body for the fire and rescue service.
There are currently 951 fire safety officers in England qualified to carry out fire safety audits.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “Three years after Grenfell, Britain’s fire safety regime remains a national disgrace and politicians are responsible. This legislation is long overdue but insufficient.
“At best, the government is planning to fund less than one extra fire inspector in each fire service for a massively expanded workload. We should be talking about immediately doubling inspector numbers to make a dent in this crisis.
“Oversights like this are symptomatic of a system that excludes those most affected from the policymaking process. With better engagement with tenants and firefighters, the chances of another disaster like Grenfell could be significantly reduced.
“The government must finally bring back a statutory fire sector body that represents the views of frontline firefighters, fire safety inspectors, and tenants. It’s the only way to end the dangerously short-termist thinking that prospers in Whitehall.”
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has been contacted for comment.