Leaseholders will have more protection from costly remediation bills.
The Building Safety Bill – the Government’s legislative response to Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety – hit the headlines in January, following critical government interventions ahead of its report stage in the Commons.
The bill underwent changes, long called for by the LGA and councils, that will now protect leaseholders to some degree from costly remediation bills.
This commitment was further strengthened by a threat from Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary Michael Gove to use the legal system to force developers, rather than residents, to pay for fire safety failures.
Given that the bill impacts councils as duty holders and regulators, and has implications for the fire and rescue service, the LGA has been working continually to ensure the national voice of local government is heard when it comes to this important piece of legislation.
When the bill reached its Commons’ committee stage in 2021, the LGA submitted written evidence to the MPs responsible for its scrutiny. Cllr David Renard, Chair of the LGA’s Environment, Economy, Housing and Transport Board, also appeared before the committee to give evidence.
Since this initial engagement, the LGA has secured a steady drumbeat of parliamentary interventions through briefings for debates taking place in both Houses of Parliament on subjects such as leaseholder protections, fire safety in retirement communities, fire risk in high-rise social housing, and more.
Most significantly, we worked with LGA Vice-President Daisy Cooper MP to table amendments to the bill at report stage that would protect councils from additional burdens resulting from a new levy, further reduce the ability of developers to appoint their own regulator, and bring new-build blocks less than 18 metres high within the scope of the bill.
“The LGA has secured a steady drumbeat of interventions”
While critical wins for councils have already been achieved, the LGA continues to take action in a number of vital areas.
First, we are calling for council building control and the fire service to be funded properly, to ensure the necessary increase in skills and capacity to deliver the new requirements of the bill.
Second, we are maintaining our calls for the Government to redress the two-tier system created by the bill, where the new building safety regulator has oversight of new-builds over 18 metres, but developers choose their own regulators for buildings under 18 metres.
Finally, the LGA is continuing to press the Government to exempt councils from the developer levy.
So, what is next for the Building Safety Bill?
It has completed its passage through the House of Commons and now makes its way through the Lords, where the second reading was due to take place on 2 February, as first was going to press.
This will be the first opportunity for Peers to properly engage with the bill. Working shoulder to shoulder with our cross-party vice-presidents, as well as Peers who have an interest in local government, the LGA will continue to use every resource available to strengthen the bill for councils and for the residents they represent.