A public consultation on building warrant fees ran between 21 July and 24 October 2023. Containing 12 questions, the consultation aimed to gather a broad range of public and stakeholder views on the suggested changes to the building warrant fee structure. In total, 95 consultation responses were received from 39 individuals and 56 organisations.
Part 1 – Building Warrant Fees
Just under two thirds (65%) of all respondents agreed that building warrant fees should be increased to strengthen the building standards system in Scotland. Many suggested more funding through increased fees could ease current capacity and resourcing issues, and improve verification, compliance, and inspection services. Some presented caveats to their agreement, such as the need to ringfence additional funds for local authority building standards and verifier teams and guaranteeing better service levels. However, several respondents disagreed with the proposal due to their poor perceptions of the current building warrant application and verification process.
Overall, 70% of respondents agreed with using a proportion of building warrant fees to support a central Building Standards Hub. The most common reason for agreement was that it would improve nationwide consistency in the verification approach. Others suggested it would improve efficiency, provide access to technological advancements, assist with timely responses to evolving building requirements, and give verifiers nationwide access to training and knowledge. Several respondents who agreed with the proposal and some who disagreed or were neutral suggested different funding sources for the Hub, such as direct funding from the Scottish Government.
Enhanced verification and certification auditing was supported by three fifths (62%). Several respondents suggested this would maintain a high level of service, and others noted it would improve transparency and ensure that fees reached the building standards teams. However, there were concerns about the capacity and resources of local authority building warrant teams to handle the auditing and data collection. Some disagreed with the proposal, with a few individuals believing the current system functioned adequately and there was no need for change, while a few others argued that increasing fees would make building work too costly.
There was widespread support for the planned increases or adjustments for years two and three to be reviewed after year one, with 81% of all respondents in favour. Many respondents expressed their support in open comments, but did not provide further detail. Others agreed as it would increase transparency and ensure the higher fees positively impact the building warrant process. Several respondents, primarily local authorities, agreed with the proposal but disagreed with the timeline, suggesting that 12 months was not enough time to allow local authorities to make the changes necessary to improve services. Some individuals and organisations mentioned the importance of establishing clear criteria that would be used to judge and measure improvement over year one.
Part 2 – High Risk Buildings (HRBs)
Four fifths of respondents (81%) supported the introduction of an enhanced fee for High Risk Building warrant applications, with support most commonly driven by a belief that these applications are more complex. Several supported the proposal because they felt it would ensure better oversight and an enhanced verification system for high risk buildings. Some others disagreed, arguing that high risk buildings tend to be larger and therefore already incur higher fees under the existing fee structure.
Part 3 – Building Standards Enforcement
Three fifths (59%) agreed a portion of building warrant fees should be used to fund the local authority compliance enforcement role but only as it relates to the building warrant process. Many acknowledged that there must be a proportionate and adequately funded enforcement process and using a portion of building warrant fees was seen as a reliable and appropriate funding source. In contrast, several respondents argued that using a portion of fees for building warrant enforcement would be unfair to individuals or developers who comply with the building warrant process.
There was less support (33%) for using a portion of building warrant fees to fund local authorities’ wider building standards’ statutory role. It was commonly felt that this role, including dangerous and defective buildings, was separate from the building warrant application and verification process and should also be funded separately. In contrast, others thought that using a portion of building warrant fees in this way would provide additional funding for necessary enforcement and compliance work.
Part 4 – Devolved Building Warrant Fees
There was widespread consensus that building warrant fees should be set at a national level; 88% felt this should be the case. Respondents commented that this would ensure consistent costs and service across the country and provide applicants with certainty about the costs they will face. Some respondents, mostly individuals, supported locally set fees as they could be more flexible to local circumstances.
Part 5 – Impact Assessments
While many believed there would be no impact on people with protected characteristics or on socio-economic inequalities, a few queried the impact on building warrant fee exemptions for work to a building used by a disabled person. Respondents suggested the proposals could increase the financial burden on individuals and businesses wishing to undertake building work and increase the workload for building services.
There was broad agreement with several of the proposed changes. Many argued they could lead to improved processes, oversight, and consistency between local authorities. This was especially true regarding the support for a portion of fees being used to fund a central Building Standards Hub and an enhanced fee for high risk buildings.
Respondents also noted concerns or points for consideration in some key areas. Throughout the consultation, respondents argued that any fee increase would need to be accompanied by an improvement in the quality of services provided by local authority building standards teams. A frequently raised concern was ensuring that any additional funding generated from increased fees is directed back to local authority building standards teams to support their important work.
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