The Grenfell Tower blaze in June 2017 and investigations of public housing stock prompted by it revealed widespread fire-safety shortcomings across the country's social housing stock. Finding the funds to carry out the essential work is a problem for local authorities and housing associations.
A government-commissioned review of building regulations, called for in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire and led by former Health & Safety Executive chair Dame Judith Hackitt, has already found that the current building regulations do not work and contractors are able to get away with making shortcuts. “What is initially designed is not what is being built, and quality assurance of materials and people is seriously lacking,” Dame Judith wrote in her interim report, published this week.
The British Woodworking Federation (BWF), whose members manufacture nearly three million fire doors in the UK each year, welcomed the Hackitt Review’s interim recommendations identifying a need for reform of the regulatory framework but cautioned that this was not enough.
“The elephant in the room is still who is going to pay for these essential works,” said BWF chief executive Iain McIlwee.
He said: “Dame Judith urges building owners not to wait until the review is complete. However, as it stands vitally important work is being delayed due to financial considerations. We are calling for the Treasury to make an allocation for long term and potentially life-critical works by creating a Building Safety Fund (similar to the Pension Protection Fund).
“This will offer a solution to the current predicament of housing associations and local authorities, providing them with a scheme to apply to for compensation to support replacement and repair cost. The fund would alleviate concerns from building managers and most importantly, tenants, while helping consolidate legal matters through a centrally controlled process.
“Although the cost of this may need to be born through insurance premiums, when we consider the true cost of Grenfell, it is not one that we can responsibly ignore.”