The Grenfell Tower fire was a “defining moment” for housing caused by “systemic failings”, according to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s permanent secretary.
Melanie Dawes said in a speech at the Housing 2018 conference in Manchester on Tuesday that the fire will “carry on being a defining moment for housing for many years to come” in ways that are “still not very clear for us”.
Ms Dawes also told conference that clearer accountability was needed across the housing sector to improve building safety standards while the government would be looking to implement the findings of Dame Judith Hackitt’s review in the near future.
To this end, Ms Dawes added that the government was specifically working to implement Dame Judith’s recommendation to set up a ‘joint competent authority’ for building safety regulations. According to the review, the new authority would comprise Local Authority Building Standards (the proposed name for the rebranded Local Authority Building Control), the Health & Safety Executive and fire and rescue authorities working together to oversee better management of safety risks in buildings. This body should also have “additional powers” to ensure work on buildings is carried out to the required standard, the review said.
Ms Dawes said: “We need a wholesale reform of the regulatory framework which is commensurate with the risk which has been so tragically demonstrated. Critical to this is clearer accountability because accountability is not clear enough.”
Referring to a “golden thread of accountability”, Ms Dawes said the responsibility for building safety must be shared by all members of the supply chain, from construction firms and freeholders through to the repair and maintenance team’s engagement with residents.
Ms Dawes also extended her “heartfelt thanks” to conference delegates from the housing sector “for what you’ve done” in helping the government identify flammable cladding on high-rise buildings and remediation works.