Andrew Millross sets out the key points from Anthony Collins Solicitors' response to the 'Building a safer future' consultation.
On 31 July, the consultation period ended on the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG)’s proposals for reforming the building safety regulatory system set out in the 'Building a Safer Future' document.
During the consultation period, we have seen a change of Prime Minister and a potential shift in emphasis towards new build. It is not clear yet whether the new government will be as committed to implementing the proposals being consulted on as Theresa May’s government said it was.
We thought it was important to add our voice to those calling for change by responding to the consultation. Many of the questions were “technical”, so our response focussed just on those areas where we thought we could make a useful contribution from our perspective as lawyers specialising in registered provider and local authority housing work.
Our response is available to read here.
Particular things we highlighted were:
- the need for any duties expressed in “outcome-based” terms to be accompanied by clear guidance and “worked examples”;
- the importance of clarity over the respective roles of the Health and Safety Executive and any new building safety regulator during the construction process;
- a call for the Government to act transparently in relation to fire safety issues, including publishing the full test reports from their fire door test programme, and early publication of the outcomes of the ongoing testing of non-Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding materials;
- the tension between the drive for “value-for-money” (particularly for local authorities that have faced severe budget cuts in recent years) and the desire of responsible landlords to specify better quality, and therefore potentially higher priced, materials (as highlighted by Dame Judith’s criticisms of “value engineering” in her review);
- how restrictions on specifying particular products or technical standards in the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 can make it harder to specify that good quality products must be used in building construction or refurbishment;
- the “disconnect” between procurement processes under the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 and the leaseholder consultation provisions under the Service Charges (Consultation Requirements) (England) Regulations 2003;
- the practical difficulties over how a duty on residents to “cooperate” with the person accountable for building safety can be enforced;
- the need for Government to meet the costs of any safety works that are not to be recharged to leaseholders, otherwise those costs will, in practice, fall on a registered provider’s or local authority’s tenants; and
- the need for legislation to underpin the new arrangements.