N.B - This authority is to include Local Authority Building Standards, Fire and Rescue authorities and the Health and Safety Executive in order to oversee better management.
The Chair stated there were a number of details still to be revealed about the JCA. These included who would take the lead and how it would be funded.
The Fire Safety Inspector commented that they were awaiting the legislative framework to understand how exactly the JCA would work in practice. Buildings needed to be assessed as a whole rather than in small parts. It was also key to have inspections throughout the construction process, during any refurbishment and throughout the general life of the building.
The Chair referred to the Dame Hackitt report which listed gateway building inspection points, these were prebuild, during construction or major refurbishment and at completion. The JCA would be responsible for awarding a certificate to the building to ensure it was safe. He wanted to ensure Wolverhampton would be fully prepared in anticipation of the legislation being introduced. The Compliance Officer remarked that buildings changed over time. Changes which were made during the installation of systems sometimes did not have adequate sealing and then there were potentially breaches in compartmentation. Corporate Landlord had a rolling programme for the higher risk buildings which commenced with adult residential care. West Midlands Fire service were being invited to audit the Council owned buildings which was in addition to the standard maintenance of them, which included their own fire risk assessments. The findings were proving to be very useful.
The Fire Safety Inspection Officer for West Midlands Fire Service commented that for high rise residential blocks the Fire Service was only legally required to complete risk assessments for the common areas. The new JCA would hopefully change the process and introduce invasive Level 4 risk assessments to identify any problems. In Wolverhampton many of the issues were found outside of common areas. He was only aware of two privately owned residential blocks in the Wolverhampton area which had Grenfell style cladding, which had now been removed. There was one NHS building which had flammable cladding, which was being dealt with by NHS England.
The Head of Commercial Services and Stock investment for Wolverhampton homes stated that many of the homes they managed had been built in the 1960s and 1970s. The mechanical and electrical infrastructure which supplied the dwellings was starting to fail or had already done so in certain cases. Some fire doors were coming to the end of their life and there were electrical issues in several of the blocks. A programme had been put in place for the high-rise estate and this was helping to uncover problematic areas within the estate. Remedial work in relation to fire stopping and fire safety was not being charged to the leaseholders. To date they had not had any access issues to carry out works and under the lease agreement they had the right to gain access to the dwellings to inspect. The Chair praised the work of Wolverhampton Homes for their work to improve fire safety.
The Senior Building Surveyor stated that on the whole Building Control welcomed the findings of the Dame Hackitt report. They were however limited in what action they could take until new legislation was written by Central Government. The Umbrella organisation for Local Authority Building Control, which represented each Local Authority across the country, had already commenced preparations. This included assessing the competencies of staff and the prospect of introducing written assessments for staff, which would award grades. The grade awarded would determine the complexity of issues the staff member could deal with in the future. He was unable to estimate the cost and resource implications of the JCA at the current time. He hoped that in the future there would be more prescriptive regulations which would give a degree of certainty to the work of Building Control. He believed that if the recommendations of the Hackitt report were introduced in full the Building Control function would be substantially improved. The current punishments for non-compliance within building control regulations were negligible compared to the legal costs of bringing action. He hoped the penalties in the future would be stronger.