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Firefighters identify “deadly private sector inspection threat” in Building Safety Bill

22 July 2021

FIRE BRIGADES Union (FBU) general secretary Matt Wrack has responded to the Building Safety Bill passing through its second reading in Parliament by stating his belief that the document is “vitally flawed” in its present form. The Building Safety Bill is set to see private sector firms approached if Fire and Rescue Services are not in a position to assist the new Building Safety Regulator with fire-related matters.

The Building Safety Regulator, which the Building Safety Bill introduces, is a new statutory body based within the Health and Safety Executive and holding responsibility for building safety in higher-risk buildings.

The FBU fears that safety will be weakened as profit is prioritised if the Building Safety Regulator is allowed to turn to private firms, and that this policy might lead to further private sector involvement in the fire safety regimes of new developments.

The Building Safety Bill represents the most substantial legislative response to the Grenfell Tower disaster to date and aims to reform building safety with measures including a requirement to have an ‘Accountable Person’ for higher-risk buildings.

The Trade Union has also moved to criticise the Building Safety Bill on the grounds that it doesn’t address the building safety crisis in existing buildings. In the wake of Grenfell, hundreds of thousands of homes have been deemed to be unsafe, with many residents facing huge costs to remedy their homes. According to the FBU, the Building Safety Bill “does nothing” to address the need for these repairs, nor their cost.

Concern over funding

Other issues with the Building Safety Bill identified by the FBU include concerns around funding some of the work required from the Fire and Rescue Service as well as the need for residents to have a voice in decisions and processes directly impacting them.

Matt Wrack said: “The Building Safety Bill will be vitally flawed if it allows the new Building Safety Regulator to turn to private firms for assistance with fire-related matters. The FBU has vigorously opposed this type of activity over the longer term and will continue to do so. Building safety cannot be an opportunity for profiteering. This risks public safety, as history shows us. The answer is to invest in the public Fire and Rescue Service by recruiting and training sufficient firefighters to carry out these duties.”

Wrack went on to comment: “Furthermore, while the Building Safety Bill puts in place some good protections for new buildings, we would like to see this document resolve the building safety crisis in existing buildings. Finally, there need to be provisions in the Building Safety Bill to properly fund the Fire and Rescue Service for the extra work that it mandates and also protect residents’ voices in matters which concern them.”