Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack has responded to the Building Safety Bill passing its second reading in Parliament on 21 July by saying that it is ‘vitally flawed’ in its present form. The bill is set to see private sector firms turned to if fire and rescue services are not in a position to assist the new Building Safety Regulator with fire matters.
The Building Safety Regulator, which the bill is set to introduce, will be a new statutory body responsible for building safety in higher-risk buildings.
The FBU fears 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 fire safety of new developments.
The bill is 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, as well as the new Building Safety Regulator.
The union has also criticised the bill on the grounds that it does not address the building safety crisis in existing buildings. In the wake of Grenfell hundreds of thousands of people’s homes have been discovered to be unsafe, with many facing huge costs to remedy their homes. The bill does nothing to address the need for these repairs nor their cost.
Other issues with the bill identified by the Fire Brigades Union include concerns around funding some of the work required from the fire and rescue service, and the need for residents to have a voice in decisions and processes concerning them.
Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said: ‘This bill will be vitally flawed if it allows the new Building Safety Regulator to turn to private firms for assistance with fire matters. The FBU has vigorously opposed this type of activity over the long 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.
‘Furthermore, whilst this bill puts in place some good protections for new buildings, we would like to see this bill resolve the building safety crisis in existing buildings. Finally, there need to be provisions in the bill to fund the fire service properly for the extra work it mandates for, and protect resident’s voices in matters which concern them.’
For more information or comment contact Ben Duncan-Duggal on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07825635224.