The government must improve on the detail if it is to demonstrate that its new building safety proposals will drive much-needed reform in the sector including the exact responsibilities of building safety managers, according to a group of influential MPs.
The proposed legislation sets out the framework the government intends to adopt to implement a new building safety regime and to remedy the flaws in the existing system identified in the Hackitt Review.
But a report published today by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee following pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft building safety bill found that there was an over-emphasis on as yet unpublished secondary legislation and regulation which left significant gaps in how the new regime would operate in practice.
It called on the government to provide much more detail when it publishes the final building safety bill and to remove any doubt on the scope of the legislation and the responsibilities on building operators.
The report recommends greater oversight of key professions in the construction and building management sectors, including new roles created by the bill.
The exact responsibilities and competencies of the newly established accountable person and building safety manager positions are not well defined and should be clarified, according to tot the committee’s report.
The bill should also require that building safety managers – as well as other professions involved in the design and construction of high-rise buildings – should be subject to national accreditation and registration standards.
The report also states that in its current form the draft legislation fails to provide sufficient protection against leaseholders paying the bill for work to remedy existing fire safety defects.
The building safety charge "should be a way of funding the cost of future work, not a mechanism for ensuring residents foot the bill for historic failures in fire safety construction or maintenance".
The committee reiterates its long-standing call on the government to provide sufficient funding for remedial work and to develop mechanisms to recover these costs from those responsible.
Clive Betts, chair of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, said: “Establishing a new regime to ensure that buildings are made safe will require significant change to how buildings are constructed and maintained. It is crucial that from day one those tasked with their design, construction and upkeep have no doubt of the new standards they are to adhere to and responsibilities expected of them.
“As it stands, there are still questions over how the broad framework set out in the draft bill will operate in practice. Key definitions remain unclear and responsibilities ill-defined. Before they bring the legislation back to the House of Commons these areas must be addressed in full.
“The government must also bring an end to the ongoing uncertainty around who will pay the cost for the historic failures in the building safety regime. Leaseholders should not be expected to foot the bill for failures that were not of their making. This has dragged on far too long now and the government must accept that it will have to step in to cover the cost in the short term. But we are equally clear in stating that this should be the first step ahead of establishing robust mechanisms to ensure that those who are responsible for fire safety failures finance their remediation.”
A MHCLG spokesperson said: “Our building safety bill will implement the biggest improvements to the building regulatory system in almost 40 years – ensuring residents are safer in their homes.
“The committee’s report recognises the bill’s wide support from stakeholders and its vital importance in raising standards. We are looking at developing affordable solutions where needed and will provide more details in due course.”