Agenda item

Council Housing - Building Safety

Minutes:

Members were presented with The Building Safety Act 2022, The Fire Safety Act 2021 and The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 in relation to Council Housing.  The purpose of the report was to update the Housing Cabinet Committee of recent changes to building and fire safety laws and regulations, their implications for the Authority, and the measures Housing Assets were taking to comply.

 

The Head of Housing Assets and Compliance & Projects Manager highlighted key aspects from the report.

 

  • The Head of Housing Operations informed Members that the new legislation changes were very relevant in the wake of the recent fires in Rose Street and the raac concrete in current news reports.  Members were advised that the amendments to building safety law was passed following findings of an independent review in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.  She noted that following the Grenfell Tower disaster, Gravesham had been on the front foot and had already taken a number of measures prior to this new legislation, such as sprinklers in all high-rise residential buildings. The Committee were advised that the changes had been incorporated into existing legislation and with the creation of new legislation.

 

  • The new building safety law defined a high risk building as being 18 metres tall and above, of which Gravesham has 5 residential buildings that were applicable to this category.  Members were informed that all high-rise building must be registered by 1st October 2023.

 

  • The new building safety act required the Council to appoint an accountable person to be responsible for monitoring and assessing health, safety and fire risk of a high risk building and to apply for a Building Assurance Certificate from April 2024.

 

The Chair invited Members to ask questions and give feedback:

 

  • In the event of a fire Members queried how residents would be accounted for.  The Compliance & Projects Manager explained that ultimately this was the role of the Fire Service, however there would be officers on site to keep record.  He went on to say that there were plans to have lists of residents held in the secure information box, with details of any vulnerable residents plus those who would require assistance with evacuation.  The Chair praised the Compliance & Project Manager for being on site at the recent fire in Rose Street and for the Head of Housing Asset’s assistance the next morning.
  • In relation to recent national news stories relating to raac concrete, Members asked if the Committee would receive an update relating to any impact on Gravesham properties.  The Head of Housing Assets informed Members that all relevant buildings had undergone surveys and there was no indication of any concrete issues.  She went on to say that a certificate would be obtained to that effect.

 

  • Clarification was sought regarding the role of Accountable Person and whether this would be an officer or Member of the Council, as it was highlighted within the report that the appointed person(s) could be prosecuted if there was a breach. The Head of Housing Assets advised it had been decided as a corporate entity, that the responsible persons would be the Management Team of the Council including the Head of Housing Operations and Compliance & Projects Manager, in respect of the action plan, to evidence and demonstrate commitment.  It was noted that the Council’s Risk Register would be updated to reflect the 4 acts.

 

Members asked if the Local Government Authority gave guidance on the proposal of prosecution, as the term ‘negligence’ would be a concern to Members.  The Head of Housing Operations confirmed there would be Member Training at the end of October which would cover this, along with proposed building awareness training for Members in the future.

 

  • The Committee queried how the Council would deal with situations where a resident would not permit access into a building for safety repairs, ensuring the Council did not become liable for a potential breach.  The Head of Housing Operations assured Members that if a resident was not working with the organisation and preventing the Council to carry out works and improve safety, the team could take a legal course of action to obtain access if required.  The Director (Housing) concurred that any compromise to safety would be put right.

 

  • Reference was made to a negative media story relating to the recent fire in Rose Street.  The Director (Housing) informed Members this story was not factually correct and the Communications Manager had contacted BBC Southeast, who had since apologised.  The Committee were updated that all residents in the effected houses were accommodated by the Council into temporary accommodation on the night of the fire, whether they were Council tenants or private occupants.

 

The Committee noted the report.

 

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