LGA response to Fire Safety Consultation

The LGA believes that some form of statutory guidance will probably be necessary in order to avoid putting responsible persons in the impossible position of having legal duties to review fire risk assessments that they cannot fulfil as a result of a shortage of competent, insured assessors.


About the Local Government Association

The Local Government Association (LGA) is the national voice of local government. We are a politically-led, cross party membership organisation, representing councils from England and Wales.

Our role is to support, promote and improve local government, and raise national awareness of the work of councils. Our ultimate ambition is to support councils to deliver local solutions to national problems.

Section 1: Strengthening the Fire Safety Order and Improving Compliance (for all Regulated Premises)

1.1 Guidance

Q6. To what extent to do you agree that Article 50 is a sufficient basis for providing guidance to RPs to support their compliance with their duties under the Order?

Tend to Disagree

Q7. To what extent do you agree that a strengthened legal basis for guidance under the Fire Safety Order is needed such as a Code of Practice?

Tend to Agree

The LGA believes that some form of statutory guidance will probably be necessary in order to avoid putting responsible persons in the impossible position of having legal duties to review fire risk assessments that they cannot fulfil as a result of a shortage of competent, insured assessors; the Code of Practice approach may be the most effective way to deliver this aim. We are represented on a task and finish group the home office has established to resolve this issue and are working with other stakeholders to do so.

Q8: If you agree that a strengthened legal basis for guidance is required, then can you set out which specific areas or issues you think should be covered by an ‘Approved Code of Practice’? a) Responsible Persons b) Enforcement and Sanctions c) Fire Risk Assessments d) Higher Risk Workplaces e) Provision of Information f) Other

A, B and C

Q9: If you do not agree that the legislative basis for guidance needs to change, to what extent do you agree/disagree that the format and style of Codes of Practice (such as the Health & Safety Executive’s) should be adopted for any new or revised guidance under the existing provisions within the FSO?

See Q6-7 above

1.2 Responsible Persons

Q10. To what extent do you agree that a requirement for RPs to record who they are, the extent of their responsibility under the FSO, and their contact information will facilitate the identification of RPs?

Strongly Agree

Q11. To what extent do you agree that the requirements set out in proposal 1 be extended to others that have control of the premises, such as dutyholders?

Tend to Agree

Q12. To what extent do you agree that the information the RP is required to record should include a UK based contact address?

Strongly agree

Q13. To what extent do you agree that the duty to cooperate and coordinate (Article 22) should be amended to include a requirement for RPs to take steps to identify themselves to all other RPs (and where applicable Accountable Persons and/or Building Safety Managers as proposed under the Building Safety Bill) where they share or have duties in respect of the same premises.

Strongly agree

Q14. Do you have any other comments to further support your answers above? 

The phrase ‘should take steps to’ in question 13 may need strengthening

1.3 Quality of Fire Risk Assessments

Q15. To what extent do you agree that the FSO should include a competency requirement for fire risk assessors and other fire professionals engaged by the RPs?

Tend to Agree

Q16. To what extent do you agree that the name and contact information of an individual engaged by the RPs to undertake any or all of the fire risk assessment, should be recorded within the completed fire risk assessment.

Strongly agree

Q17. Please set out any further information you think fire risk assessments should include.

No response

Q.18 To what extent do you agree that a duty should be placed on all RPs to record their completed fire risk assessments?

Strongly agree

Q19. To what extent do you agree that all RPs should be required to record their fire safety arrangements (Article 11)?

Strongly agree

Q20. Do you have any other comments to further support your answers above?

Our support for the proposal in Q15 is qualified as follows:

  • The requirement to include EWS in the FRA means that some buildings will need more than one expert to complete their FRA and any competence requirements need to take this into account.
  • The FRA should not be an onerous task for simple low-risk premises, such as house conversions. The burdens arising from competence requirements need to be aligned to risk.
  • The Fire Risk Assessor’s knowledge of the building could also usefully be included in the skills and competencies matrix of officers carrying out FRAs. A high level of qualification doesn’t necessarily make an officer highly competent without practical experience and knowledge of the buildings.

While we strongly agree with Q 18 and 19, guidance should make this as simple as possible for low-risk premises

Thought should be given to whether guidance needs to stipulate a certain level of FRS for higher risk buildings and whether the term ‘regularly’ needs clearer definition.

1.4 Provision of Information

Q21. To what extent do you agree that a new requirement should be placed on RPs to provide information to specific relevant persons (residents) on fire safety in multioccupied residential buildings (excluding individual flats/private dwellings) in which they reside?

Tend to Agree

Q22. To what extent do you agree that a new requirement should be placed on RPs to take steps to provide the following information to residents in multi-occupied residential buildings:

a) Information on the risks identified by the fire risk assessment;

b) The preventative and protective measures in place to mitigate potential fire risk;

c) The role and responsibilities of relevant RPs and dutyholders, including their name and contact details; and

d) The Fire Risk Assessment (available on request).

Strongly Agree

Q23. Please note any comments you have on whether the information outlined above should be provided to specific relevant persons (residents).

Q21 seems too vague.

Q24. What other information, if any, should RPs be required to provide specific relevant persons (residents)?

In so much as it is proposed under the Fire Safety or Building Safety Bills to impose duties on residents, this should be made clear by the RP alongside the information provided under Q22.

Q25. The intention of proposal 6 is to provide information to residents of all multi-occupied residential buildings subject to the FSO. To what extent do you agree that this information should be available on request to other ‘relevant persons ’ Under the FSO, a relevant person is defined as any person who is or may be lawfully on the premises and any person in the immediate vicinity of the premises who is at risk from a fire on the premises. within:

  1. multi-occupied residential buildings covered by the Order
  2. all buildings covered by the Order

Neither agree nor disagree

Q26. Please note any additional information to support your answer to Question 25.

It is unclear how this would work in practice or who would read the information. Guests are unlikely to read it. Those working on site ought to have access to safety critical information they require as a result of their employer’s obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

It is important that guests in holiday lets and students in halls are provided with the information referred to above

Q27. To what extent do you agree that a new requirement should be placed on RPs to take steps to share all relevant fire safety information with subsequent RPs?

Strongly agree

Q.28. In addition to fire risk assessments, is there any other information that should be shared between successive RPs?

  • information on recent incidents
  • Everything relating to Reg 38 as required by the building regulations
  • The emergency evacuation strategy.
  • Whatever information is required to be provided in the Premises Information Box

Q29. Please note any other gaps in the FSO in relation to the provision of information and how they could be addressed.

N/A

Q30. Do you have any other comments to further support your answers above? 

We are concerned that some of these requirements may be excessive for RPs in small premises such as houses converted into flats.

We are concerned that some of the requirements being proposed may duplicated requirements under the Building Safety Bill

1.5 Enforcement and Sanctions

Q31. To what extent do you agree that a level 3 fine (£1,000) provides a suitable deterrent and carries a suitable financial penalty?

Tend to disagree

Q32. To what extent do you agree that a level 4 fine (£2,500) would provide a suitable deterrent and carry a suitable financial penalty?

Tend to disagree

Q33. To what extent do you agree that a level 5 fine (unlimited) would provide a suitable deterrent and carry a suitable financial penalty?

Tend to agree

Q34. Do you have any other comments to further support your answers above?

Our answers above emphasise the point about proportionality made earlier. The levels of fine suggested in Qs 31 and 32 are paltry for major freeholders but excessive for the owners of a shared freehold in a converted house. We support an unlimited maximum in order to give the fire service the tools necessary to enforce against large buildings/organisations, but guidance will be needed to ensure that the fine is proportionate to the property and in particular the number of occupants.

Fines need to be cost effective measures for enforcing authorities to take – currently the process of recovering a £1,000 fine is not cost effective for an FRS.

1.6 Maintenance, including the role of residents

Q35. To what extent do you agree that Article 17 makes sufficient provision for ensuring that premises and any facilities etc are subject to a system of maintenance and are maintained to an appropriate standard for the safety of relevant persons? 

Strongly Agree

Q36. To what extent do you agree that the FSO sufficiently provides for the replacement of defective or substandard facilities, equipment and devices including fire doors?  

Tend to disagree, specifically in relation to difficulties councils experience when leaseholders replace flat front doors.

Q37. To what extent do you agree that Article 17 is effective in ensuring the occupier (of parts of a building to which the FSO does not apply) co-operates with the RP? 

Tend to disagree, specifically in relation to difficulties councils experience when leaseholders replace flat front doors.

Q38. To what extent do you think that the occupier (of residential parts of a building to which the FSO does not apply) in buildings out of scope of the new regime should be under duties similar (in relation to fire safety) to those being considered under the Building Safety Bill?

Tend to agree, specifically in relation to flat front doors

Q39. To what extent do you agree that the powers of enforcement available to Fire and Rescue Authorities are effective in ensuring remediation for breaches of Article 17?

Tend to agree

Q40. Do you have any other comments to further support your answers above?

This section seeks our views on whether

For multi-occupied residential premises outside of the scope of the draft Building Safety Bill, …. similar duties to those proposed in the Bill, but for fire safety risk, (rather than building safety risk), should also be imposed under the FSO on residents in these buildings.

The higher risk regime under the Building Safety Bill is – obviously – directed at higher risk buildings and may not therefore be suitable for blanket imposition on all buildings through the Fire Safety Order.

We would prefer to see

  1.  A more sophisticated definition of high risk in the Building Safety Bill (BSB); and
  2. the imposition of BSB’s higher risk regime on all high-risk residential blocks

However, we do wish to see effective duties placed on leaseholders to prevent them changing fire doors without permission. The Government should not make councils and other freeholders responsible for issues beyond their control.  The FSB makes duty-holders responsible for fire doors, even if they are owned by leaseholders.

Residents should be required to notify the landlord of defects relevant to fire safety and to seek permission for internal work that could breach compartmentation. However, there may be a question over whether the FSO is the right place to address these issues. Is it practical to expect the FRS to enforce breaches?

Q41. To what extent do you agree that Article 38 makes sufficient provision for ensuring that premises and any facilities etc are subject to a system of maintenance and are maintained to an appropriate standard for the safety of fire-fighters? 

Tend to disagree

Q42. To what extent do you agree that Article 38 is effective in ensuring that the occupier (of parts of a building to which the FSO does not apply) co-operates with the Responsible Person? 

Tend to disagree

Q43. To what extent do you agree that the powers of enforcement available to Fire and Rescue Authorities are effective in ensuring remediation for breaches of Article 38?

Tend to agree

Q44. Do you have any other comments to further support your answers above?

Article 38 is adequate except in its omission of measures relating to fire fighter safety and its acceptance of a lack of fire safety systems when these were installed at the time of the original build

The LGA supports the NFCC in recommending that the shortcomings of Article 38 be addressed through the amendment of section 4(3) of the Building Regulations 2010 to insert a trigger clause which would require people to make improvements as nearly as is reasonably practicable when building works are being undertaken. We recommend the Home Office engage with MHCLG as a matter of priority to explore further policy development in this area.

The LGA also supports the NFCC in recommending the amendment of A.38 to enable the FSO Enforcing Authority to require the installation of firefighting measures that are relevant for the safety of fire-fighters and effective fire-fighting activity, which otherwise have not been included as part of non-worsening.

1.7 Higher Risk Workplaces

Q45. What risk factors are of most concern to you in higher risk workplaces (such as prisons, hospitals, sheltered and supported housing, residential educational buildings, care homes) and why? For example: a) Occupancy (who is on the premises: children, patients, the elderly, etc.); b) Use of premises (what activity is carried out); c) Existing fire strategy; d) Design and construction of the building (e.g., layout, materials, size, etc.); e) Other – please specify.

These are all of concern. We would add means of construction.

Q46. What additional fire precautions requirements – over and above those already required under the Order – should apply to higher risk workplaces to increase fire safety? a) Provision and maintenance of means of escape; b) Provision and maintenance of firefighting systems; c) Provision of employee training on fire safety; d) Provision of sufficient employees present on the premises to ensure means of escape can be safely and effectively used all times; e) Annual review of the fire risk assessment; f) Record keeping demonstrating the specific requirements; g) Other – please specify.

We suggest this should be dealt with by extending the scope of the higher risk regime in the Building Safety Bill

Q47. Based on the above, please also indicate what specific requirements should apply to what type of higher risk workplace building:

See previous question

Q48. Do you have any other comments?

No

1.8 Fees and Charges

Q49. To what extent do you agree that the current provisions for prohibition of charging within s.18B(8) of the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 should be removed to align with the proposed approach to charging for enforcement action in the Building Safety Bill (the starting scope of the regime is proposed as HRRBs of 18 metres or more in height, or more than six storeys)?

Strongly agree

Q50. Alternatively, to what extent do you agree that the current provisions for prohibition of charging within s.18B(8) of the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 should be removed in their entirety to enable charging for enforcement activity for all premises subject to the FSO?

Tend to agree

Q51. To what extent do you agree that the proposed ability to charge would incentivise compliance with the FSO?

Tend to agree

Q52. To what extent do you agree that FRAs should be able to charge for all unsatisfactory audits conducted under the FSO?

Strongly disagree

Q53. To what extent do you agree that FSO Inspectors should be able to charge only for unsatisfactory audits that result in:

  1. Informal notifications

Strongly disagree

  1. Enforcement notices;

Tend to agree

  1. Prohibition notices; and

Tend to agree

d) Alteration notices

Tend to disagree

Q54. To what extent do you agree that there should be charging guidance for FRAs in relation to charging provisions in the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004?

Strongly agree 

Q55. Please share any thoughts you have on levels of charging and when and how these charges should be applied by FRAs if provision was made for charging in relation to FSO activity.    

The LGA supports allowing charging in line with the principles of good regulation. Where a business is proactive in seeking advice which it then follows, it should not be penalised if an enforcement notice is issued – unless the need for enforcement arises from the business’ prior negligence - otherwise perverse incentives may arise.

Charging should be on a cost recovery basis, not punitive. It should be treated as the recovery of enforcement costs and aligned with arrangements under the Building Safety Bill.

Q56. Do you have any other comments? 

No

1.9 Charging for False Fire Alarms

Q57. To what extent do you agree that charging can be a beneficial tool when attempting to reduce False Fire Alarms FFA and encourage behaviour change?

Tend to agree

Q58. Please provide further information on your thoughts around possible behaviour change (both positive and negative).

We support greater ability to charge but only for persistent false alarms caused by poor management on the part of the RP

Q59. To what extent do you agree that barriers to the current charging system for FFA exist?

Don’t know

Q61. To what extent do you agree that the following terminology, under 18C(3) FRSA, in relation to charging for FFA are appropriate and clear?

Not answered

Q62. Please provide further information on your thoughts around the following terminology, under 18C(3) FRSA, in relation to charging for FFA –

Not answered

Q63. To what extent do you agree that FRA can charge for the following types of FFA?

FFA is defined into four categories under BS 5839-1: False alarms with good intent, malicious false alarms, equipment false alarms and unwanted alarms.

  1. False alarms with good intent;

Strongly disagree

  1. Malicious false alarms

Strongly disagree

  1. Equipment false alarms; and

Strongly agree

  1. Unwanted alarms.

Strongly agree

Q64. Please provide further information on your views

The LGA does not want to see RPs charged for false alarms where that might deter genuine calls for help, however unnecessary they may turn out to be. Malicious calls may not be the responsibility of the RP.

Guidance should allow the FRS to charge where advice on the cause of false alarms is ignored or where installation of operation of the alarm is faulty and this results in persistent false alarms.

Our support for D (unwanted alarms) is only in respect of unwanted alarms that fall under the above criteria.

Q65. To what extent do you agree that we should take steps to change the current approach to charging under 18C(3) FRSA?

Strongly agree

Section 2: Grenfell Tower Inquiry Recommendations

2.1 Definition of Height for High-Rise Buildings

Q66. To what extent do you agree that we should apply the same height definition for high-rise residential buildings to that set out in the proposed Building Safety Bill (18 metres and above and / or more than six storeys whichever comes first) to any proposed regulations made under the FSO?

Neither agree nor disagree

Q67. Do you have any other comments to further support your answers above?

The LGA agrees that whatever definition is used for ‘high rise’ and/or to define the scope of the more rigorous regime for higher-risk buildings under the Building Safety Bill, should also be used in the FSO where a definition of high rise or high risk is required in relation to the FSO. Indeed, clear and simple definitions of these terms across all relevant legislation and guidance (including Approved Document B) would be helpful

However, the department needs to bear in mind:

  1. The LGA does not support the use of high-rise as the basis for the scope of the higher-risk regime proposed in the Building Safety Bill, because height is only a crude determinant of risk. A height-based approach will impose unnecessary rules on many safe buildings while leaving many dangerous ones unaffected. This will simultaneously devote scarce resource to over-regulating safe buildings, while limiting its availability for inherently higher-risk buildings under 18m, such as care homes. Instead a more sophisticated approach is required, taking other factors into account including social and demographic factors, the structure of the building, the vulnerability of people that live in the blocks and the learning from actual historical fire incidents and building performance.
  2. The clear intention behind the Building Safety Bill is that the scope of its high-risk regime should expand over time. The effect of such an expansion on the FSO needs to be considered when drafting the precise wording of any height-based regulations.

2.2 External Walls

Q68. To what extent do you agree with the above proposal to make regulations as described above? Please explain.

Tend to Agree

Q69. In your view, what form should the information in relation to fire risks linked to the design and materials of the external wall structures, and the mitigating steps, be provided: a) A bespoke standard format, or b) The relevant section of the fire risk assessment that is related to external walls?

See our answer to Q70.

Q70. Do you have any other comments to further support your answers above?

We refer the department to our answer to Q7 in section 1. We agree that the information referred to in proposals 10 and 11 needs to be provided, but where external cladding is used on a multi-occupied residential building this information needs to be provided irrespective of height.

This proposal needs to be aligned with the requirements under the Building Safety Bill around information the Accountable Person must provide to the regulator. It would be undesirable for essentially the same information to be supplied by duty holders under both pieces of legislation to two different bodies.

Where information is supplied to the FRS for operational use it is important that the FRS gets simple information in a useable format. We believe the NFCC will make representations to you on this point.

There should be a common approach to recording the information and the passing of that information to the FRS and other interested parties.

The Government neds to consider whether this proposal provides sufficient safeguard for when the external wall is compromised by a leaseholder; for example, a DIY duct for a tumble drier or an air conditioning unit. How will the RP know about such breaches and be able to inspect them?

2.3 Plans

Questions Q71. To what extent do you agree with this proposed approach to make regulations as described above? Please explain.

Tend to agree

Q72. Please indicate what key firefighting equipment could be included in the building plans:

See Q74

Q73. Please indicate whether you think building plans should be provided for every floor of a building or only for those floors that are different in their layout? a) Every floor of the building; b) Only for those floors that are different in their layout.

B - Only for those floors that are different in their layout.

Q74. Do you have any other comments to further support your answers above?

The LGA supports the inclusion of information that would be useful to firefighters in an operational setting that is not disproportionately difficult for RPs to obtain.

Plans need to be provided in a manner that facilitates the purpose of their provision – i.e. so that they can be used by the FRS to save lives in the event of a fire. The demands on duty holders must also be proportionate and aligned to those made under the Building Safety Bill.

We are aware of other studies ongoing that need to be considered in framing guidance on this point.

We recommend that the Government establish a small working group including NFCC, HSE and local authority housing practitioners to draw up guidance and ensure the correct balance is struck.

It is unclear whether Proposal 13 requires a paper plan which would be at odds with the statement in proposal 12 that these will not be required.

2.4 Premises Information Boxes

Q75.  To what extent do you agree with this proposed approach to make regulations as described above? Please explain.

Tend to Agree.

We have no objection in principle to this proposal, but we would prefer FRSs to be equipped with information technology appropriate to an emergency service operating in one of the world’s wealthiest countries in the 21st century rather than relying on bits of paper in a box in a burning building. Storing data electronically will mean there is no shortage of copies, it can be easily updated and accessed/downloaded en route to a fire. This is not an argument against the PIB, but over time a modern approach may render them irrelevant.

Our one very strong concern about PIBs is that storing details of vulnerable people in a PIB is an invitation to the theft and misuse of that information by criminal gangs. The requirement to include plans is at odds with the proposal not to require hard copy plans.

Q76. To what extent do you agree that the Premises Information Boxes should include copies of the completed fire risk assessment?

Tend to disagree. While the FRA may contain useful information, that information is unlikely to be easy to access during an incident.

Q77. To what extent do you agree that the Premises Information Box should include the contact details for the relevant Responsible Person?

Tend to agree

Q78. To what extent do you agree that there should be a consistent approach to Premises Information Boxes between the Fire Safety Order and the Building Regulation guidance?

Strongly agree

Q79. To what extent to you agree that Approved Document B should set the threshold at 18m top storey height only in relation to the Premises Information Boxes requirement?

See our answer to Q67.

Q80. Do you consider that other recommendations should be provided?

The LGA supports the inclusion of information that would be useful to firefighters in an operational setting that is not disproportionately difficult for RPs to obtain.

Q81. Do you have any other comments to further support your answers above?

We recommend that the Government task the working group referred to in our answer to Q74, consider this issue.

2.5 Lifts

Q82. To what extent do you agree with this proposed approach to make regulations as described above? Please explain.

Neither agree nor disagree

The LGA does not object to the specific suggestions here but does object to them being adopted independently of the work being undertaken to establish the Building Safety Bill’s safety regime which will apply to the same group of buildings. The safety case approach advocated by Dame Judith Hackitt, on which that regime rests, takes a more sophisticated approach in requiring the management of a building to demonstrate competence in safety issues and the detailed prescription of a set of inspections is potentially at odds with this approach. The regime proposed here may form part of demonstrating confidence in management at present only to become outdated due to the emergence of smart equipment that self-reports failure direct to the FRS and the RP simultaneously. The ‘safety case’ approach will not fall foul of that problem. There needs to be a joined-up approach if we are to prevent the emergence of two parallel regulatory approaches.

The proposals here ignore the existence of some older buildings which do not have lifts of a standard suitable for firefighter use. The Government should urgently fund safety upgrades where this is found to be the case.

Q83. What would you suggest is a sufficient threshold for the reporting timeframe to the local Fire and Rescue Services?

This should be locally agreed between the RP and FRS depending on circumstance.

Q84. To what extent do you agree that the proposal should cover all lifts within a building?

Tend to agree but see comment at Q82

Q85. To what extent to you agree that the proposal should cover other pieces of key fire-fighting equipment?

Neither agree nor disagree see answer to Q82

Q86. What other pieces of key fire-fighting equipment, excluding lifts and the mechanism through which fire-fighters can take control of the lifts, would you suggest should be included in this proposal (therefore tested or inspected every month and reported to the local Fire and Rescue Service in the event of failure)? a) Dry risers; b) Wet risers; c) Smoke control systems; d) Suppression systems (including associated operating instructions); and e) Other (please specify).

See answer to Q82

Q87. To what extent do you agree that the proposal should be extended to include a requirement for information about the monthly checks to be made visible to residents?

Tend to agree.

Q88. Do you have any other comments to further support your answers above?

RE Q87 - If the checks take place, residents should be able to access the information.

2.6 Evacuation Plans 

Q89.  To what extent do you agree with the proposed approach to make regulations as described above? Please explain.

Tend to agree

It is unclear from the consultation what this proposal means. An evacuation is something that should begin before the FRS arrives on the scene. If it requires FRS intervention that is not a strategy it is an emergency rescue. This should never be the plan.

If the proposal means that the RP should tell the FRS whether the evacuation strategy is stay put or simultaneous evacuation, the LGA strongly supports that view.

If that is not what the proposal means, we reserve our view subject to clarification, but it does seem to us that it is impossible for an RP with a stay-put strategy to draw up a plan to evacuate the building if stay put has to be abandoned. This is because if the evacuation of the building is considered likely to be necessary then the building should not have a stay-put strategy. Were the stay put strategy to fail, that would be as a result of an unforeseen circumstance and the correct response to that happening could not, by definition, be set out in advance.

Where the evacuation strategy is not stay put, the FRS will almost certainly know what it is in any case, but we have no objection to this requirement as a fall back

As stated elsewhere we would prefer a digital PIB. At the least the regulations should anticipate this possibility.

Q90.  Do you think this proposal should be extended to cover all multi-occupied residential buildings of 11 metres and above? Please explain.

Neither agree not disagree.

As stated elsewhere we do not support an approach to these requirements risk based solely on height.

Extending this to 11m could overwhelm the FRS with information relating to buildings that are low risk. We support a risk-based approach.

Q91.  What information do you think should be included in an evacuation plan? 

Whether the evacuation strategy is stay put or simultaneous evacuation, with details in the latter case.

Q92. Do you have any other comments to further support your answers above? 

Any evacuation plan should be shared with residents

2.7 Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans 

Q93. To what extent do you agree with the proposed approach to make regulations as described above? Please explain.

Tend to agree.

The department is right to recognise the logistical challenges in this area.

We are concerned that out of date information could accumulate as occupants change.

Proposal 22 needs more thought. Its purpose appears to be to ensure that where a stay put strategy is in place the FRS know where residents are who may need rescue if the strategy has to be abandoned. Obviously, that is a circumstance which should not occur and were it to occur, the likelihood is that many other residents would also require rescue. In this situation out of date information under Proposal 22 could place firefighters in unnecessary danger. Implementation of this proposal could have significant cost implication for the FRS and leaseholders as it might mean sending additional numbers of appliances in response to any incident. We recommend that the Home Office discuss this proposal further with NFCC and LGA before any attempt is made to implement it.

Proposal 24 ought to apply to any building with a simultaneous evacuation strategy in place, not just those with a waking watch.

Q94. To what extent do you agree that a RP should notify their local Fire and Rescue Service of any residents who cannot self-evacuate (subject to the resident’s consent and self-identification)?

Tend to agree but see our answer to Q93

Q95. What information, other than location, do you think should be provided to Fire and Rescue Services in relation to residents who cannot self-evacuate?

The nature of their disability

Contact details that would allow SMS alert or phone contact prior to rescue

Q96. Is a duplicate - ignored.

Q97. Please indicate what information you would like to see included in the supporting guidance?

  • Answers to the above questions
  • Data protection guidance
  • Data upkeep guidance.

Q98. Do you have any other comments to further support your answers above?

As stated above we do not support the provision of paper lists of vulnerable people in a box in the building. If electronic lists are kept these will need appropriate protection.

2.8 Information to Residents

Q99. To what extent do you agree with this proposed approach to make regulations as stated above? Please explain.

Strongly agree

Residents must be safe and feel safe in their homes. We suggest it is clear that this aim requires the provision of fire safety information. However, this proposal needs to be considered in relation to wider residents’ engagement in the new building safety regime. Fire safety should not be treated separately from other building safety issues or a confused system will result.

Q100. Other than the information already listed under Proposals 25 and 26, what other information or instruction should be provided to residents?

This is another area which would be better left to the Building Safety Bill and the regulator. If the department wishes to legislate nonetheless, we suggest that a reference to ‘any relevant information they reasonably request and which the RP can reasonably be expected to provide (as ultimately determined by the Building Safety Regulator or other neutral party)’ would be a better approach than trying to list everything in regulations.

Q101. What factors should be taken into consideration in relation to the: a) “nature of the building”, and b) the RPs “knowledge of the occupants”?

The fire safety issues in the building, the evacuation strategy and the vulnerability of residents.

Q102. Please indicate what information you would like to see included in the supporting guidance?

Guidance needs to cover both the FSO and the Building Safety Bill

How to present information to be of most use to residents

Q103. Do you have any other comments to further support your answers above?

We urge the department not to legislate separately for fire in this area but to treat residents’ engagement in all aspects building safety holistically in the building safety Bill. It would be absurd to have different rules in relation to fire safety.

2.9 Fire Doors

Q104. To what extent do you agree with this proposed approach as described above?

Tend to agree

Q105. Do you have any other comments to further support your answer?

We support this proposal with the exception of the requirement to inspect all flat entrance doors which are fire doors at not less than six-monthly intervals in buildings over 18m. Depending on resource available this is likely to be impossible. Councils tell us that they experience low response rates to any programme of inspections that requires council officers to enter premises (for example annual gas boiler checks). A requirement to inspect all flat front doors will inevitably result in repeat visits and in some cases action to gain access. This is not a quick process and we could find ourselves seeking access under one round of inspections while commencing the next. In addition, a power of entry cannot be usefully exercised when its purpose is to check whether a front door will withstand a fire (because once exercised, the power of entry ensures the fire door will not work). An annual inspection combined with boiler checks is workable; however even this will require significant new burdens funding. We refer you to the response from London Councils on this matter which contains detailed evidence of the scale of work required. It might be the case that if the RP becomes a building safety manager to manage all of these requirements (probably at significant cost) then the relevant checks and balances become more simple, but the resource implications of this will need very careful consideration.

Q106. Please note any factors we should consider in the implementation of these proposals.

We suggest a more effective approach would be to assess the risk of non-compliant doors as part of the Fire Risk Assessment which could then determine the frequency of fire door checks.

Q107. Please provide any additional comments on the related matters on which we are seeking views.

The Fire Safety Bill requires Fire Risk Assessments in all buildings covered by the FSO to take account of Fire Doors. MHCLG has already provided advice to building owners on fire doors earlier this year. This advice was the result of considerable discussion, including with NFCC and LGA and advocates a risk-based approach. If it is now to be updated, the planned revised edition of Fire Safety in Purpose-Built Blocks of Flats, guidance accompanying the Bill when it commences, and other guidance issued by the department will provide an opportunity to produce a proportionate and workable approach to meeting this requirement. Given the far greater number of buildings in the 11-18m height range the cost of even annual checks on fire doors will be enormous and this will fall on leaseholders in many blocks. This is why the LGA supports a risk-0based approach to fire safety checks and believes that the proposals in this section of the consultation need to be considered in parallel with the work of the new regulator and the safety case approach.

Rather than issuing advice upon advice, the LGA would prefer to see Government address the fact that the industry responsible for supplying inadequate fire doors for several years prior to Grenfell and the test houses which appear to have wrongly advised the industry ion testing those doors have failed to provide adequate recompense to the councils, housing associations and private landlords who have been left with a burden estimated at £700m in the form of inadequate fire protection.

Questions Q108. To what extent do you agree with this proposed approach as described above?

Neither agree nor disagree

Q109. Do you have any other comments to further support your answers above?

While we support the intent of the proposal – to keep residents in blocks with flammable cladding safe - we support the alternative set out in the document. When a building is identified as having flammable cladding the FRS is notified and makes recommendations about fire safety strategies – for example a shift to simultaneous evacuation to address the issue until the cladding can be removed. It has the option of prohibiting use of the building. The clarification that the FSO covers fire doors, which the Fire Safety Bill provides will allow the FRS to consider the efficacy of fire doors in making these recommendations and issue improvement notices if it feels that replacement is necessary. However the automatic provisions in this proposal remove any judgement about risk and involve the RP in a potentially expensive and time consuming task, which – under current arrangements – leaseholders will be charged for and which may well distract the RPs attention from what should be the priority and is the only solution to dangerous cladding – the removal as soon as possible of that cladding.

Q110. Please note any factors we should consider in the implementation of these changes in this proposal.

See Q109

Q.111. Please provide any additional comments on the sufficiency of the Government’s actions to date to address the Inquiry’s concerns.

The LGA supports the Inquiry’s recommendations and wants to see them delivered. In general, the consultation, sets out a deliverable approach, subject to the exceptions we have highlighted above. However, the inquiry’s aims will be undermined if the Home Office attempts to take these recommendations forward without greater regard for the work that MHCLG has done to establish an effective system of building safety as recommended by Dame Judith Hackitt. We hope that consideration will take place and will happily work with the Department to facilitate it.

Q112. To what extent do you agree that the installation of sprinklers in existing buildings should continue to be guided by the fire risk assessment process rather than be made mandatory under the FSO?

Strongly disagree

The Fire Risk Assessment cannot require sprinklers to be installed. The LGA has called for the Government to provide funding to allow councils to retrofit sprinklers in existing buildings on the same basis as they are required in new buildings. Residents of existing buildings should be given the same protection as those in new buildings.

Q113. To what extent do you agree that regulations should be made requiring wayfinding signage to be introduced in multi-occupied residential buildings?

Strongly Agree

We have supported this proposal in a previous consultation and are confused as to why it is in this one.

Q114. Should the requirement for wayfinding signage be introduced in: a) all multi-occupied residential buildings; or b) multi-occupied residential buildings of 11 metres and above?

B this is not an expensive new burden

Q115. To what extent do you agree any requirement for evacuation alert systems should be informed by the outcome of the programme of research and testing?

Strongly agree

Section 3: Building Control Bodies Consultation with Fire and Rescue Authorities

3.1 Better Information

Q116a. To what extent do you agree, that further guidance should be provided on the information which needs to be supplied?  

Strongly agree

 Q116b. If you agree, please specify what information this should cover

 We defer to the NFCC and LABC on this matter

Q117. To what extent do you agree that a standardised set of building fire safety information requirements describing what information is to be provided would be helpful?

Strongly agree

Q118.  To what extent do you agree that a standardised format for providing the above information would be helpful?  

Strongly agree

3.2 Plans Certificates

Q119.  To what extent do you agree that plans certificates should be mandated for FSO buildings?

Strongly agree

Q120. To what extent do you agree that plans certificates could allow for conditions to be set? 

Strongly agree

Q121. To what extent do you agree that plans certificates should be mandated only where building work affects fire or structural safety matters?

Strongly disagree

Q122. As an alternative, to what extent do you agree that further guidance would be sufficient?

Strongly disagree

Q123. Please explain your views on plans certificates further:

There is a clear need for tighter regulation of buildings outside scope of the regime in the Building Safety Bill. The LGA is concerned at the difficulty the fire service experiences in having its views heard in the planning and design process. Combined with the continuation of competition in buildings safety for buildings outside the scope of the building Safety Bill means the culture change Dame Judith Hackitt called for will not be incentivised without a tightening-up of regulatory oversight.  One helpful measure could be elevating the existing guidance ‘Building Regulations and Fire Safety Procedural Guidance’ to approved document status, to encourage consultation with FRSs.

The problem is exacerbated by Permitted Development, under which changes to the building are still subject to the Building Regulations. Work that complies with the Building Regulations should comply with the Fire Safety Order; however, the Building Regulations only apply to the work being done to the building; existing parts of the building that are not directly impacted are not covered. This can mean that, for example, a shop converted into flats containing existing walls that do not meet the fire compartmentation standards that would normally apply to a new building of the same layout and purpose, not being addressed. Additionally, where a PDR commences above an existing building there is no requirement to enhance the fire safety measures in that existing part of the building, this places the parts of the PDR at an increased risk from fire developing in the existing building below.

3.3 Timely Consultation

Q124a. To what extent do you agree that there are additional consultation points that could be specified in legislation or guidance?

Strongly agree

Q124b. If yes, please specify what these points are and whether these should be specified in legislation or guidance?  

Whenever there are significant changes in the design

3.4 Appropriate Response Times

Q125. To what extent do you agree that there should be a fixed statutory timeframe in legislation for response by Fire and Rescue Authorities (upon receipt of the appropriate information from building control bodies)?   

Strongly agree

Q126a. If a statutory timeframe were to be introduced in legislation, to what extent do you agree that it should be

  1. 15 calendar days Neither agree nor disagree
  2. 21 calendar day Neither agree nor disagree
  3. other – please specify. There should be a stepped scale dependent upon the complexity of what is being submitted, with the possibility for extension where appropriate. Please see below.

Q126b. Please explain your response

Timescales may need to operate on a stepped scale dependent upon the complexity of what is being submitted.

A final view on appropriate timescales is only really possible once a decision has been reached on the information to be supplied but for more complex projects 15 days is likely to be too short.

Q127. To what extent do you agree that there should be a flexible arrangement where all parties involved including developer, building control body and Fire and Rescue Authority are able to agree an extension to the timeframe to meet the need/s of the specific project?  

Strongly agree

Q128. Please note any other factors we should consider relating to introducing statutory timeframes for consultation between building control bodies and Fire and Rescue Authorities.

N/A

3.5 Enabling Dispute Resolution

Q129a. Are there problems with resolving disputes between building control bodies and Fire and Rescue Authorities which could benefit from a mediation panel with appropriate representative bodies providing advice on resolving disputes?  

Strongly agree

Q129b. Please explain your answer

We understand this proposal is supported by NFCC and LABC

 Q.130. Which bodies should be involved?

The proposed Building Safety Regulator could establish and run such a panel, with their regulatory oversight of the building control profession, and would provide a route for the collation of information to inform sector learning. NFCC and LABC should be involved

3.6 Better Guidance

Q131a. To what extent do you agree that standing advice, separate to but complementing Approved Document B and the Procedural Guidance, for use at the local level would be helpful?  

Neither agree not disagree

Q131b. If so, please specify all areas it would be helpful to address

N/A

3.7 Fire Safety Information (Regulation 38)

Q132a: To what extent do you agree that the application of Regulation 38 should be extended to material alterations and/or other types of building work?  

Strongly agree

Q132b. If you agree, please specify which types of work.

Extending Regulation 38 to apply to all premises to which the FSO applies, regardless of the nature of the works, will ensure the Responsible Person is provided with all relevant information to fully inform their fire risk assessment.

Q133. To what extent do you agree that the building control body should have to approve the fire safety information to be handed over?   

Strongly agree

Q134. To what extent do you agree that a review of the Regulation 38 information should be included in any formal consultation requirements between the building control body and the Fire and Rescue Authority prior to the issue of a completion or final certificate?  

Strongly agree

Q135. To what extent do you agree that there should be a requirement for the developer to provide a formal notice to the building control body that fire information has been handed over (including confirmation from the Responsible Person to that effect)?

Strongly agree

Q136. To what extent do you agree that further guidance would be useful, for example through a British Standards such as BS 8644?

Strongly agree

Q137. Overall, please state which of the three options is your preference.  

N/A

3.8 Impacts

Q138a. If implemented, to what extent do you agree that the changes would provide benefits to your work?  

Tend to agree

Q138b. Please specify how

The LGA represents councils and fire authorities. Councils work will benefit from an improvement to the housing conditions in an area, which councils as Local Housing Authorities are responsible under the Housing Act 2004; Fire and rescue authorities are tasked with, among other things, preventing fires, which this reform will support.

The benefits of these reforms would be increased if duty-holders were prevented from choosing their own building control regulator.

Q139a: If implemented, what extent do you agree the changes would result in any additional costs to your organisation?  

Tend to agree

Q139b. Please specify how

There is a nationally recognised shortage of competent fire safety professionals and a recognition that the reform of building safety requires an increase in the competence and capacity of the workforce in various areas. If the lessons of the Grenfell Tower fire are to be learned, there is no avoiding this expenditure, which arises from the reform of an entire sector rather than specifically from these proposals.

Some additional funding has already been made available to FRSs. This needs to continue and to be accompanied by appropriate increases in resource to local authority building control if the reform of building safety is to succeed.