McVey backs building-safety consultation despite ‘wriggle room’ hint

Housing minister maintains Government will bring reform legislation forward “as early as practicable”.

Planning - Blue Prints

Having hinted at ‘wriggle room’ over cladding work, housing minister Esther McVey backed up the government’s consultation on building-safety regulations.

McVey was responding to a written Commons question from Labour’s Alex Cunningham on prosecutions under building regulations.

Referencing LGA research showing that prosecutions under building regulations have fallen by approximately 75% in the last 10 years, Cunningham asked what plans MHCLG had to increase sanctions and penalties for non-compliance with building regulations and to ensure councils were awarded full costs for such cases.

McVey maintained MHCLG was working with existing regulators to explore opportunities for maximising cost recovery as an option for funding tougher regulatory activity on higher-risk buildings in scope of the new regime.

With the consultation having closed on July 31, the government has committed to bringing forward legislation to implement reforms “as early as practicable”, she said.

The Hackitt Review identified the need to strengthen the sanctions and enforcement regime.

The government accepted this recommendation and put a package of overhaul measures out to consultation – including setting up a single building safety regulator with stronger sanctions and enforcement powers.

Responding to a written Commons question last month, McVey confirmed exceptional circumstances for private sector safety work not being done and would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

That was taken as a hint at  ‘wriggle room’ for private sector building owners over ACM cladding replacement – with no blanket definition of what constitutes exceptional circumstances for work not being done to deadline.

As reported by 24housing, a recently released Commons report released last month said the government has been “far too slow” reforming building and fire safety regulations post Grenfell and is still not doing enough to remove dangerous cladding from existing buildings.

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has urged the government to “recognise the need for urgency”, warning that the £200m specifically set aside for the remediation of private sector residential buildings with ACM cladding will not be enough.

In the social sector, other than a small handful of exceptional cases, remediation is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

But before leaving office, previous Secretary of State for Housing James Brokenshire acknowledged slower progress in the private sector.

With the government offering that £200m fund, any building in the private sector not assessed as permanently safe is expected to have a “clear commitment” to remediation, with a start and finish date agreed.

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