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Home>Fire>Legislation>Government opens Waking Watch Replacement Fund for applications

Government opens Waking Watch Replacement Fund for applications

29 January 2022

LEASEHOLDERS WILL be further protected from “rip-off and misused” fire safety measures thanks to new multimillion-pound Government funding put in place specifically to remove ‘Waking Watch’ patrols.

The £27 million made available in the Waking Watch Replacement Fund builds on the £35 million apportioned to the original Waking Watch Relief Fund and will pay for the installation of fire alarm systems in buildings of all heights, rather than just being limited to those structures over 18 metres tall.

In essence, this means that hundreds more buildings where leaseholders and residents have been forced by their freeholders to pay for costly fire safety patrols will now be able to install fire alarm systems instead at no cost to themselves, thereby saving leaseholders, on average, £163 per month.

The Government’s announcement goes beyond the existing £35 million Waking Watch Relief Fund which is already supporting 323 buildings to replace the expensive 24-hour fire patrol services and aims to end the “unacceptable misuse” of ‘Waking Watch’ provisions.

It follows on from warnings issued by Michael Gove (the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) to industry that either the latter comes forward and pays to fix the building safety crisis or the Government will otherwise be forced to impose a solution in law.

Lord Stephen Greenhalgh, the Minister of State for Building Safety and Fire, explained: “It’s unacceptable that innocent leaseholders are still facing fire risks in their own homes, let alone being subjected to the disgraceful misuse of rip-off measures at the hands of their building owners. The extra funding being made available will be a huge relief to many being forced to pay unnecessary costs. However, fire alarms and ‘Waking Watch’ provisions are not long-term solutions. Industry must take responsibility and pay to fix its dangerous mistakes. We are actively pursuing developers and manufacturers at fault to bring this scandal to an end.”

Fire alarm installations

Leaseholders in buildings awaiting the completion of remediation works are currently being forced to pay for ‘Waking Watch’ solutions, whereby a building is continually patrolled in case of a fire, by building owners.

This additional Government funding will help to end the misuse of this practice and encourage the installation of fire alarms, which are proven to be both more effective and cheaper in the long-term, in an estimated 300 additional buildings.

A key focus of the Government’s overhauled approach towards building safety is restoring common sense to the market and ensuring a more proportionate approach to fire safety in buildings under 18 metres.

Michael Gove has also warned industry that there must be fewer unnecessary surveys, an assumption that there’s no risk to life in medium and low-rise buildings unless clear evidence of the contrary and far greater use of sensible, risk-mitigating fire safety measures, such as fire alarm and sprinkler systems.

Gove has also announced the withdrawal of the Consolidated Advice Note – interim guidance which has been wrongly interpreted by the industry as requiring remediation of all cladding irrespective of building height.

New and updated guidance, produced by the British Standards Institution, will also help fire risk assessors to take a proportionate approach to the assessment of external walls, in turn avoiding wholesale cladding replacements where it’s safe to do so.

Series of discussions

In the first of a series of round table discussions, Gove told industry that either it helps to pay the £4 billion needed to end the cladding scandal or further action would be taken, with nothing off the table.

Cladding companies have also been warned that they, too, are expected to pay their fair share of the bill. If they refuse, the Government will consider legislative changes designed to block companies from Government funding, or even from operating at all in this country.

This development follows on from the suspension of Rydon Homes from the Government’s Help to Buy Scheme.

A spokesperson from the National Fire Chiefs Council said: “The NFCC welcomes the extension of the Waking Watch Relief Fund to help leaseholders who have faced significant financial pressures. Installing a common fire alarm system is a timely and cost-effective temporary measure that reduces dependence on the ‘Waking Watch’ option.”

Funding allocation

Almost £6 million of the £27 million additional funding has been allocated to five metropolitan areas. The Waking Watch Replacement Fund will be administered by the following authorities/regions to private sector buildings located in their area: Birmingham, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield.

The remaining funding will be administered centrally by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to eligible private sector buildings in all other areas and to eligible buildings in the social sector.

To be eligible, a given building must be located in England, has to be a residential building and must have a ‘Waking Watch’ in place where the costs have been passed on to leaseholders.

Social sector buildings where the Registered Provider can evidence that ‘Waking Watch’ costs have been passed on to leaseholders and the costs of installing an alarm also fall on leaseholders will also be eligible.

The ‘Responsible Person’ (ie the individual or business responsible for ensuring the safety of residents in their building) can apply for money from the Waking Watch Relief Fund by providing the evidence needed. Applicants are encouraged to speak to their local Fire and Rescue Service about the installation of fire alarms in their building and to keep leaseholders informed.

Applications to the Waking Watch Replacement Fund opened on Thursday 27 January 2022. The application period will close on Monday 28 March 2022.

The Government is continuing to work closely with councils and Fire and Rescue Services on the delivery of the Waking Watch Relief Fund.