Trades and professionals working on higher risk residential buildings need to push ahead with plans to improve competences without waiting for Government to introduce new regulations.
That was the key message from Dame Judith Hackitt addressing attendees at a conference held at the Local Government Association in Westminster this week (September 30) to discuss recommendations set out in Raising the Bar – the interim report from the Competency Steering Group (CSG), set up to tackle competency shortcomings identified in the Hackitt Review in the wake of the Grenfell Tower Fire. The report is out for consultation until the end of October.
Dame Judith told the 130-strong audience drawn from across the built environment and fire sectors that the work of the CSG was “impressive” but that “Changing the regulatory framework, which some of you are waiting for, is going to take time.”
She said: “My personal view is that the direction of travel is right, and progress on many of the aspects of implementing the recommendations is encouraging. But we’re not moving fast enough to change any of it. So, what are we waiting for? Why is there still a sense of waiting to be told?
“More importantly still, I think you need to examine why you are doing this. You should be doing this because it’s the right thing to do. Not because the rules and legislation make you do it.”
Dame Judith praised the work of the CSG and its working groups in bringing the industry a considerable way along the journey towards improving competence, adding “There is more to do to turn this plan into real and lasting cultural change on the ground.”
The CSG comprises more than 150 institutions and associations working across the built environment and fire safety sectors – the largest number of organisations that have been brought together in these sectors for a common purpose.
In her speech, Dame Judith acknowledged that getting insurance for working on higher risk residential buildings was problematic. She advised the CSG to consult widely with insurers to see if the measures being proposed would reassure them that the industry was raising its game.
Graham Watts, chair of the CSG, said: “This competence work will continue. We won’t rely on regulation to make it happen. We don’t need to wait to ask about the competence of people we’re appointing – we should be asking that now.”
Also speaking at the conference, Chandru Dissanayeke, Building Safety Programme Director at the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government, said that improving building safety was the most important work on the Government agenda.
He allayed fears that it could be blown of course by an election and possible change of government. He said it was key for government to work with the industry more closely to drive a culture change through the sector.