- 4 Feb 2021
Items and actions
The Ministerial Working Group met for the second time on 29 September.
Members heard direct evidence from Chris Ashurst of the High Rise (Scotland) Action Group, which was helpful and informative. High Rise (Scotland) Action Group was subsequently invited to be involved in future Working Group meetings.
Following separate meetings during September, the four sub-groups submitted reports (some in combined form) on their discussions, the recommendations flowing from these and the developing picture since the initial meeting in April.
Some of these developments have been significant, including sector meetings with MHCLG Ministers, an RICS review of EWS1 developing a risk-based approach (on which they intend to consult during October) and wider changes including developments regarding professionals, the insurance market and funding options.
The Local Government & Communities Committee of the Scottish Parliament also continued to take evidence through virtual sessions, with members of the Group, the Minister and others appearing. Movement towards a risk-based and more universal EWS1 process would provide, if adopted, a better means to identify affected buildings and required action to meet growing calls for powers and funding.
These developments were reflected in the recommendations and conclusions of the sub-Groups.
While groups met separately, cross-membership and external developments mean that recommendations cover common ground and present a helpfully coherent picture of member’s views on the way forward. This was borne out by discussions at the 29 September Working Group meeting.
Combined conclusions included:
- EWS1 is viewed a short-term measure pending a longer-term solution to address both building safety and remediation of existing buildings.
- A robust system of mandatory ongoing Building and Fire Safety Audits is required. This needs swift legislation, providing authority and duty for action and allowing recovery of associated costs from responsible persons.
- Longer term, such a system should remove the need for multiple EWS1 certificates per block, including action which addresses the Scottish multi-ownership model which is a complicating factor not faced elsewhere.
- Immediate work is needed to identify buildings which require remediation. An inspection regime and publicly-accessible register of completed EWS1 certificates will provide a starting point.
- Action is required to ensure new build properties are not built with present fire risk factors – providing a cut-off date from when all new build properties can be deemed risk compliant and with effective regulation overseeing exchange of information to Property Managers upon handover.
- A remediation fund needs to be established, with investigations of approaches made at UK level to potentially access private sector funds, as well as developer and Government participation. Funding should be considered on a “need and (later) recovery” basis.
- PI and latterly buildings insurance market issues mean Government should seek solutions with insurers via a four nation approach given reservation restrictions. This should also include any potential need for cost support for inspections where PI costs mean these are otherwise prohibitive.
- On EWS1 itself:
- RICS are reviewing the form of certificate itself and finalising guidance to members on identification of cladding in survey reports. Consistency of reporting and application , including agreement on application to lower-rise buildings will be vital.
- Capacity issues for inspectors need addressed and there is a need for accreditation market participants know on whom the can rely.
- A central register of completed EWS1 certificates (currently being explored and developed by RICS and the Fire Industry Association) will assist in identifying affected and exempt buildings and reduce risk of fraudulent certificates.
- Single certification for buildings is required along with a clear route to remediation to allow confidence in more nuanced reports.
- RICS is engaged with MHCLG to commission delivery of an EWS portal which will hold and record all EWS forms, providing the database of affected and clear buildings with appropriate user access; MWG observations will be included in development of this resource.
- RICS is developing a risk-based approach in partnership with lenders and others. Following consultation, if adopted, this will help provide the more universal process to gauge wider and potential legislative action
- SG Ministers are invited to participate in forthcoming lender/Government discussions with MHCLG and devolved administrations
- SG officials are exploring funding and insurance market options with other 4 nation administrations.
- SG officials to consider legislative needs and options to address multi-owner and multiple EWS form requirements.
- This will include possible designation of responsible duty holder to act with cost recovery options and where consent issues arise.
- Implementation of risk-based approach by RICS and lenders needs to be incorporated, alongside development of central data resource.
- Longer-term approaches for inspection need considered (noted that the ongoing consultation on a Scottish Advice Note is pertinent here and the implications of that will be taken into account).
- Governments across the UK to consider insurance industry implications and potential interventions.
- 4 nations discussion on funding options for inspection, remediation and insurance issues, with industry (including developers, lenders and others) and owner participation to be explored further.
More Homes Division