Mike Yuille 17 May 2018

Councils disappointed Hackitt review fails to ban combustible cladding

Local councils will have extra responsibilities for monitoring the safety of higher-risk residential buildings (HRRBs), under sweeping, wholesale reforms to the regulatory landscape proposed by the final Hackitt report, published today.

In it, Dame Judith Hackitt proposes the creation of a ‘Joint Competent Authority’ (JCA) as a single regulatory body to ‘maximise the focus on building safety within HRRBs across their entire life cycle.’

Her vision is to combine existing and available expertise by having Local Authority Building Standards work alongside fire and rescue authorities and the Health and Safety Executive.

The proposals include suggestions that councils’ extra workload would be on a ‘full cost recovery basis’. There is, however, as yet scant detail available on how this funding would work.

In response, an LGA spokesperson said: 'Dame Judith’s report includes a number of recommendations that will ensure councils are supported as they take on additional work, and the Government will need to fully fund these to ensure they work effectively.’

In terms of councils’ augmented role, the report says they would continue to take a lead during the design, construction and refurbishment of buildings, adding that this would now be ‘on behalf of the JCA’.

It continues: ‘They could also support the proposed safety case review process during occupation and help to identify where changes to existing buildings could reasonably be made to reduce safety risks.’

Dame Judith’s report condemns the existing regulatory system covering HRRBs as ‘not fit for purpose’. In a forward to her report, she says the key issues underpinning the sytem failure include ignorance, indifference, inadequate regulatory oversight and enforcement, and a lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities.

However while proposing massive reform of the system, she has disappointed observers by not calling for a total ban of combustible cladding, which was a prime cause of the Grenfell disaster.

LGA chairman Lord Porter commented: 'Our immediate priority is to ensure that a fire like that at Grenfell never happens again, and to make certain the buildings which people live, visit and work in are safe today. It is therefore disappointing that Dame Judith has stopped short of recommending a ban on combustible materials and the use of desktop studies, both essential measures to improve safety.'

Clive Betts, HCLG committee chair, said: 'While the Independent Review has come to many sensible conclusions, I strongly regret Dame Judith’s decision not to recommend an immediate ban on the use of combustible materials in the cladding of high-rise residential buildings.

'The approach she proposes places too much faith in the professional competence of a construction industry in which too many people have been inclined to take shortcuts and cut costs at the expense of the safety of residents.'

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