Building safety: Changes to avoid another Grenfell fire not 'prioritised' in Wales, says watchdog

The Grenfell Tower disaster in 2017 led many to question how safe high-rise residential buildings are. Credit: PA Images

There are fears that new building safety rules drawn up to avoid another Grenfell Tower fire are not being prioritised.

A report by auditor general Adrian Crompton sets out a number of concerns over plans to tighten up Wales' building safety regime.

It found a lack of investment in staff training and development, raising concerns that local authorities will struggle to successfully deliver their responsibilities.

Reacting to the report, the Welsh Conservatives said it meant "people are still trapped in unsafe homes".

The Welsh Government welcomed the report and said reforming building safety is a priority.

A plan to improve fire safety issues in medium and high-rise buildings across Wales was announced by the Welsh Government earlier this year. Credit: PA

The report also criticised the Welsh Government for an absence of a national framework for monitoring and evaluating building control and safety, meaning that local authorities and partners are not working to agreed targets.

It goes on to warn that the financial management of building control under some councils was potentially unlawful because it does not operate in line with regulations and guidance.

Following the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 which killed 72 people, the UK Government commissioned the Hackitt Inquiry, an independent review into Building Regulations and Fire Safety.

The Inquiry revealed serious and long-standing issues with the current building safety system.

Since then, both the UK and Welsh Governments have prioritised action to improve the policing of building safety to ensure we avoid another disaster like Grenfell.

Auditor General, Adrian Crompton said: “The Grenfell Tower fire was a national tragedy, the impact of which we continue to feel today. My report highlights major concerns with the implementation of the new system for Building Safety.

"Although it’s heartening to see the passion and commitment from those working in the sector, I am concerned that not enough priority is being given to these services on the ground.

"The absence of robust plans, clear decision making, and adequate resources raises real fears that the new legislation will not be delivered and the problems it is seeking to address will remain.”

Commenting on the report from Audit Wales, Welsh Conservative Shadow Housing Minister Janet Finch-Saunders MS, called the report "alarming" and said it provided "a catalogue of evidence that the buildings safety regime in Wales is broken".

She continued: “I have long campaigned with building safety victims to try and see their homes made safety, but six years on from the Grenfell tragedy people are still trapped in unsafe homes.

“What we have seen today is that the crisis is far wider and deep rooted than feared.

“The Minister for Climate Change has repeatedly failed to get a grip on building safety in Wales and should be held responsible for the fact that diverging from the UK Government in Wales is having a detrimental impact, at least on victims.

“Labour needs to act fast and address all the serious findings from this report. I have long taken a mature approach of working with victims and cross-party.  It is time that Welsh Labour did the same too."

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Reforming the current system of building control is a priority for us and we welcome today’s report.

“The report provides an overview of the state of local authority building control services and is not a review of the Welsh Government’s building safety programme."

They added: “We have developed a phased timetable for implementation of the Building Safety Act provisions which apply to Wales.

“This has been communicated widely to the industry and other stakeholders and work will begin early in 2024.”

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