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The ARCH annual report for 2015-16 is now available to view.

 

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Funding of fire safety works: making the case to government 04/01/2018 Labelled as Finance

Following the Grenfell Tower fire the Government has, up to now, repeatedly said they expect councils to fund essential fire safety works and to draw on their existing resources to do so and that any councils with concerns about funding essential fire safety measures should contact the Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG) to discuss their concerns.

 

Although the Government has previously hinted at the possibility of relaxing Housing Revenue Account borrowing caps in exceptional circumstances for those councils unable to fund such essential fire safety works, Ministers have resisted calls for the Government to grant fund such works.

 

In a letter to MPs on 25 October 2017 the Secretary of State Sajid Javid reiterated this stance saying that the Government "expects councils and housing associations to fund measures that they determine to be essential to make a building safe having taken into account any recommendations or requirements set by the Fire & rescue Service and should draw on existing resources to do so" but that if councils had concerns about the ability to fund such works they should contact the Government.

 

The Secretary of State went on to say that at that stage 32 councils had expressed concerns about funding and that DCLG had liaised more closely with 7 of those councils and 1 had been asked to submit supporting evidence for consideration by the Department.

 

As the full costs of essential fire safety works become clearer there is concern that if Government insist that councils fund such works through their existing resources this will be at significant cost and will have a detrimental effect on councils wider Housing Investment Programmes and the delivery of their Decent Homes programmes and other essential works to the rest of their housing stock as well as any planned new build programme.

 

The series of fire safety tests by the Building Research Establishment following the Grenfell Tower fire showed that the buildings that have so far failed these tests are owned by a range of different owners (public & private) across the country and not just local authorities and that this would seem to point to a systemic failure of the system of building regulation.

 

Dame Judith Hackett's interim report into the Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety published on 18 December makes it clear that "…the whole system of regulation, covering what is written down and the way in which it is enacted in practice is not fit for purpose…"

 

ARCH is of the view that in such circumstances the Government has a shared responsibility for the failings that have led to the need for councils and other landlords to carry out these essential fire safety works and therefore should assist councils in meeting the costs of such works through some form of grant funding.

 

ARCH is seeking to make the case to Government and as a first step we are asking those ARCH member councils who have identified a need to carry out essential fire safety works to high rise buildings in their housing stock and/or have approached DCLG regarding help with funding to contact ARCH Chief Executive John Bibby (john.bibby@arch-housing.org.uk)

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