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LGA presses for cash as Javid unveils new building safety proposals

The government must ensure that unexpected costs arising from fire safety work are met, the LGA has argued today.

The comments come after housing and communities secretary Sajid Javid published new legislation to strengthen fire testing of cladding systems for consultation.

Improving building safety has been a hot topic since the Grenfell fire tragically took the lives of 71 people last year. The new consultation will look at restricting or banning the use of “desktop studies” as a way of assessing the fire performance of external cladding systems.

Views are being sought on whether these desktop studies are appropriate for all construction products, wall systems (cladding) or any other purpose, and the government will question whether they should be used at all.

The revisions come directly as a result of the recommendations made by Dame Judith Hackitt in her interim report on the review of building regulations and fire safety, published last year.

If desktop studies are deemed appropriate, then proposed changes include improving the transparency of assessments, ensuring the studies can only be carried out by properly accredited bodies that have the relevant expertise.

Javid said: “We have listened carefully to Dame Judith Hackitt and we are taking action to strengthen building regulations guidance, which could mean that the use of ‘desktop studies’ are either significantly restricted or banned altogether.”

He claimed that this demonstrates the tough measures that the government is prepared to take to ensure that cladding tests are as robust as possible and that people are safe in their homes.

The LGA has welcomed the consultation, with chair Lord Porter arguing that a desktop study cannot substitute real-world tests of cladding systems. He urged the government to “hold firm against industry pressure that seeks to allow their continued use.”

“What happened at Grenfell Tower can never be allowed to happen again and no one should have to live in fear about their safety, be that in the buildings they live in, work in or visit,” the chairman added.

Lord Porter also acknowledged councils’ quick actions to put safety measures in their high-rise blocks to reassure their residents: “While councils will continue to get on with what they need to do and are ready to play a leading role in making sure a new system of building regulation works, significant funding concerns remain.

“The government needs to meet the unexpected exceptional costs for councils arising from conducting fire safety and major remedial work and for any essential fire and safety measures needed.”

The proposals are subject to a full consultation that will end on 25 May.

Top image: Ik Aldama, DPA, PA Images

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