Raynsford, minister for construction.
Currently, building control fees are fixed centrally. However, from 1 April next year, the new regulations will empower local authorities to set their own individual charges based on the cost of the service. This will allow all authorities involved to benefit from their cost savings, and to compete more effectively with building control services provided by private sector Approved Inspectors.
In answer to a Parliamentary Question from Dr Phyllis Starkey MP (Milton Keynes South West), Nick Raynsford said:
An essential part of operating this new system of charging will be the making of a scheme by each local authority responsible for building control in order to fix those charges and administer the charging process. The department is therefore publishing a circular whose primary purpose is to give guidance to local authorities on how to produce a scheme. This will be available shortly.'
The regulations aim to encourage competition and efficiency in the building control service as a whole.
Local authorities in England and Wales with building control functions are required to charge fees for the carrying out of specific building control functions under the Building Regulations 1991. These are currently charged under the Building (Prescribed Fees) Regulations 1994 which contain schedules of fees centrally fixed by DETR, after consultation with the local authorities.
In June this year the Department consulted on new regulations to devolve the setting of these building control fees (now to be 'charges') to individual local authorities. The result of that consultation, and the decision by Nick Raynsford to proceed to lay
the new regulations (the Building (Local Authority Charges) Regulations 1998), was announced in News Release No 665.
The PQ refers to the 'Scheme' which each local authority will need to prepare in order to implement the new charges system on 1 April 1999. In order to achieve consistency between local authorities across England and Wales the Local Government Association is preparing a 'model scheme' which it will urge all authorities to follow.
The PQ also refers to a Circular which is to be published shortly. It is entitled: 'Building and Buildings - The Building (Local Authority Charges) Regulations 1998' (Environment Circular: 09/98. Welsh Office Circular: 39/98.)