The Building Safety Bill and the Health and Care Bill will be two of the LGA’s legislative priorities in the autumn, when Parliament returns from recess in early September.
Giving evidence to the bill committees, which examine each piece of legislation in detail, provides an opportunity to shape thinking around these important measures for councils.
The LGA expects that the Building Safety Bill will strengthen the building safety system in the UK, especially in relation to new buildings.
The bill establishes a Building Safety Regulator (BSR) to implement the new, more stringent, regulatory regime for higher-risk buildings – defined as residential buildings higher than 18 metres. Care homes and hospitals higher than 18 metres are also covered at the design and construction stage.
The BSR will oversee the safety and performance of all buildings and competence within the industry and among regulators.
The most controversial aspect of the bill remains the question of who pays to remediate the consequences of 20 years of systemic failure in building safety.
While the Government has made large sums available to remediate dangerous cladding, a significant proportion of the fire safety failures uncovered after the Grenfell Tower disaster are not related to cladding. The Government has refused to fund these or social blocks with non-ACM dangerous cladding.
This will prevent councils and housing associations from making a greater contribution to providing the housing the nation requires, improving the existing housing stock, meeting energy targets, and making buildings safe.
In the private sector, leaseholders are facing the costs of interim measures, rising insurance charges and remediation bills that could bankrupt them in some cases, while thousands of flats are unsellable.
The LGA is concerned that the failure to protect leaseholders will leave councils to pick up the pieces as homeowners are made homeless and dangerous buildings are left unfixed.
Meanwhile, the Health and Care Bill seeks to remove barriers to integrating services to improve health outcomes and reduce health inequalities.
The LGA broadly supports the bill’s focus on improving the health and wellbeing of the population and the duty of bodies to have regard for this in making decisions.
“Regulations and guidance need to ensure intentions are realised”
We are strongly in favour of the duty to engage with patients, carers and representatives, and hope and expect that there will be further guidance to help this.
The requirement for NHS integrated care boards and local authorities to establish a health and care partnership to produce an integrated care strategy is helpful, as is recognition of the importance of health and wellbeing boards.
The legislation will give local systems the flexibility to make their own arrangements for joining up services and setting their own strategies for improving population health, but regulations and guidance need to ensure these intentions are realised.
Increased powers for the Secretary of State in NHS reconfigurations may undermine the role of health overview and scrutiny, and we will be seeking assurances that these powers will be used in consultation with local authorities and NHS organisations affected.
There is a new role for the Care Quality Commission and the Secretary of State in the review and performance assessment of councils’ adult social care services.
We are working to ensure the assurance process is proportionate, includes a clear and continuous role for existing sector-led improvement work, and takes account of the significant financial pressures facing adult social care.