Latest: Over 200 children still in B&B accommodation after Grenfell Tower fire, says MP

Key findings from report on Grenfell Tower fire:

  • Building regulations and guidance are "too complex and unclear", often leading to confusion or misinterpretation when applied to difficult construction projects, such as high-rise towers.
  • Safeguards to ensure key people working on a building project are assessed for competency are "inadequate".
  • Clarity of roles and responsibilities across design, construction and maintenance of buildings is "poor", meaning it is unclear whose job it is to implement key measures.
  • Sanctions, enforcement and compliance are "too weak" across the industry, allowing builders to deviate from what had been designed without effective recourse.
  • Residents wanting to escalate concerns are confronted with an "unclear and inadequate" process of doing so.
  • The system of product testing, marketing and quality assurance is "not clear".

Update 6.34pm: More than 200 children affected by the Grenfell Tower fire are still being housed in bed and breakfasts, Labour's Kensington MP has claimed.

Emma Dent Coad said it was "illegal" for children to still be in such accommodation six months after the tragedy.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said there were "still too many families in emergency accommodation" as he pledged to try to reduce the number.

       

Following a statement in the Commons from Mr Javid, Ms Dent Coad asked: "Will the Secretary of State confirm that, despite the Prime Minister's promise after the Grenfell Tower fire that 'I fix a deadline of three weeks for everybody affected to be found a home nearby', there are, according to our calculations - including the Tower, Grenfell Walk, other walkways and nearby buildings - over 200 children still in bed and breakfast accommodation for up to six months, which I believe is illegal."

Mr Javid replied: "From the date of the tragedy, the commitment that was given that all families will be offered temporary accommodation within three weeks, it was absolutely met - they were all offered that.

"And we have seen over the last six months, as I've continuously updated the House - no doubt (Ms Dent Coad) has had some of her own updates from her constituents - is that we have tried at every stage to offer both permanent accommodation and different types of temporary accommodation.

"And as I have acknowledged today there are still too many families in emergency accommodation and we will continue to work with the local authority to do whatever we can to reduce that."

           

Original story (1.20pm): Grenfell Tower report calls for cultural shift in construction industry

A cultural shift is needed to ensure safety is prioritised over costs in the construction industry, a probe ordered after the Grenfell Tower fire has found.

Current building regulations are "not fit for purpose" and leave room for people to cut corners, Judith Hackitt said in an interim report from her review.

The former health and safety chief has been assessing the adequacy of the guidelines in the wake of the disaster, which raised fears that unclear industry standards had allowed dangerous material to be installed on towers.

She said she was "shocked" by how some residential properties were built and maintained.

Chief among the concerns highlighted by the report are that the regulations can be confusing and the building profession suffers from competence issues.

Hackitt wrote in the report’s introduction: "There is plenty of good practice but it is not difficult to see how those who are inclined to take shortcuts can do so.

"Change control and quality assurance are poor throughout the process.

"What is initially designed is not what is being built, and quality assurance of materials and people is seriously lacking.

"I have been shocked by some of the practices I have heard about and I am convinced of the need for a new intelligent system of regulation and enforcement for high-rise and complex buildings which will encourage everyone to do the right thing and will hold to account those who try to cut corners."

It is suspected that pressure to drive down the price of refurbishing Grenfell Tower led to cheaper, flammable material being installed on its exterior.

Seventy-one people died when a fire tore through the west London block on June 14, while a subsequent safety operation identified hundreds more buildings with similar cladding systems.

Hackitt cited industry changes made to improve the safety of the workforce as one example of how effective change in construction could be achieved.

She wrote: "A cultural and behavioural change of similar magnitude is now required across the whole sector to deliver an effective system that ensures complex buildings are built and maintained so that they are safe for people to live in for many years after the original construction.

"The mindset of doing things as cheaply as possible and passing on responsibility for problems and shortcomings to others must stop.

"Everyone’s focus must be on doing the right things because it is their responsibility as part of a system which provides buildings that are safe and sustainable for those who will live in and use them for many decades.

"Changes to the regulatory regime will help, but on their own will not be sufficient unless we can change the culture away from one of doing the minimum required for compliance, to one of taking ownership and responsibility for delivering a safe system throughout the life cycle of a building."

A full report is expected to follow in spring 2018, focusing on an overhaul of the regulatory system and the improvement of safety standards.

         

The review is one of several probes prompted by the blaze, which include Sir Martin Moore-Bick’s public inquiry and a vast police investigation.

The report said: "The work of the review to date has found that the current regulatory system for ensuring fire safety in high-rise and complex buildings is not fit for purpose.

"This applies throughout the life-cycle of a building, both during construction and occupation, and is a problem connected both to the culture of the construction industry and the effectiveness of the regulators."

It is hoped that an overhaul of building safety rules will make them more risk-orientated and create clearer accountability when there are shortcomings.

This would also mean that "primary responsibility" for ensuring buildings are fit for purpose lies with those who "commission, design and build the project", the review said.

It added: "Responsibility and accountability must rest with clearly-identifiable senior individuals and not be wholly dispersed through the supply chain."

Proper accreditation for those overseeing fire safety in the design, construction, inspection and maintenance of all high-rise buildings was also suggested in the report.

Grenfell Tower is reported to have had its cladding system switched to a cheaper version during the course of a refurbishment project.

The devastating blaze which followed also came despite residents repeated warnings about fire safety.

Hackitt’s review recommended that a "clear, quick and effective route" for tenants’ concerns was established, while deviation from original design plans were "recorded and properly reviewed".

The report added: "This is a call to action for an entire industry and those parts of government that oversee it. True and lasting change will require a universal shift in culture."

Regulators will now be brought together with the construction industry, councils and the Government to discuss change as part of the review’s second stage in the new year.

Hackitt’s review has a "particular focus" on high-rise residential buildings, but extended its scope to also take in large or complex residential construction projects.

It received 250 responses from a call for evidence issued in September, the report said.

Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association, said in response to the findings: "Today’s interim report reinforces our warnings about the complexity and confusion in the current system of ensuring buildings are safe, so tragically exposed by the Grenfell Tower fire.

"The Government needs to endorse the report’s findings without delay and work with councils and the industry to take the process of reform forward in the way Dame Judith has set out.

"This will obviously need to include rewriting the documents relating to the installation of cladding and insulation on external walls of buildings so they are easier to understand and comply with."

Local authorities have been locked in a tussle with central Government over who will foot the bill for fire safety improvements recommended following the Grenfell Tower blaze.

Council chiefs have said funding should be provided by Whitehall to cover measures such as the retrofitting of sprinklers and the removal of dangerous cladding.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday, Hackitt said: "My view very clearly is this is a shared responsibility, but, having said that it is shared, I’m not trying to spread it out indiscriminately.

"I think one of the things we have to do in this next phase is be very clear about who is responsible for what."

The British Prime Minister’s official spokesman told a regular Westminster briefing: "Public safety is, of course, paramount, which is why following the Grenfell tragedy we commissioned this report and asked for the independent review of building regulations and safety.

"I think we would view the report as an important milestone ahead of the full report that’s due back in the spring.

"As we have said, we are determined to make sure that we learn the lessons from the fire and from the inquiries that are taking place."

He added that about 1,250 buildings have been checked for dangerous material and measures put in place when necessary.

"My understanding is Hackitt herself was clear that her findings shouldn’t be interpreted as meaning that buildings are unsafe," he said.

KEYWORDS:

Grenfell

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