In my capacity as a Brent resident I asked Brent Council a written question for Monday's meeting on the actions they have taken to comply with the Building Safety Act. This followed concerns expressed by tenants who suggested that Brent was lagging behind other London boroughs. It would be interesting to hear from tenants whether the answers allay their fears.
The questions and responses are below.
Question from Martin Francis to Councillor Promise Knight (Cabinet Member for Housing, Homelessness & Renters Security)
The following list of questions pertain to the Building Safety Act that received Royal Assent in April 2022 and the requirements for landlords, including local councils, therein. ‘Buildings in Scope’ refers to those buildings under the Building Safety Act, that are high-rise residential buildings that are 18 metres tall or higher, or at least seven storeys, with two or more residential units that are defined as ‘higher-risk’.
Across England there are approximately 12,500 of these buildings and the new regulator required all of them to be registered from April 2023, with a named person responsible for maintaining their safety. The registration process is a crucial stage in setting up the new building safety regime. Registering buildings in scope will be a legal requirement and owners and managers who fail to comply by October 2023 will be investigated and may face prosecution.
On this basis, could the Cabinet Member for Housing, Homelessness and Renters Security address the following questions in relation to the Council responsibilities:
1. Does the council know the details of the residents who cannot evacuate without help, or those whose first language is not English as part of any emergency arrangements in each of the 40 buildings in scope?
The council has previously undertaken work to proactively identify tenants living in our high-rise blocks who cannot evacuate without assistance in event of an emergency. The information the council received as part of this work is currently being reviewed. When tenants whose first language is not English are identified, the council records this and will make reasonable adjustments.
2. Can you describe the details of the construction methods in each of the buildings in scope?
The construction method for each of the High Rise blocks is in the Fire Risks Assessment (FRA) for the property and is included in the Building Registration information provided to London Fire Brigade (LFB) and the Building Regulators. Furthermore, this information is contained in our asset database.
3. Can you provide the access and means of escape, including travel distances, in all the buildings in scope?
The access points and means of escape are clearly set out in all of the buildings. Travel distances in the buildings complied with the Building Regulations current at the time the building was constructed. We also have wayfinding information conspicuously displayed in all our blocks that provide access and means of escape information as well as direction/fire escape routes out of the property.
4. Can you identify all the Building Safety risks in each of the buildings in scope?
The Fire Risk Assessments for each building identifies all safety risks which are being actioned in the required timescales.
5. Can you provide the maintenance and inspection schedules for every building in scope using The Golden Thread of information? LINK
All maintenance and inspection schedules/records are on our New Compliance asset compliance management database. All new build blocks in scope are following the Gateway process.
6. Can you set out the emergency plan for each building in scope, including their evacuation strategy?
All information in regard to emergency plan and strategy are provided as part of the building registration with LFB and the fire strategy for each block is displayed in the lobby area in each block.
7. Please set out your complaints system and that how you will operate an effective mandatory occurrence reporting system?
The Council’s principal accountable person for our occupied higher-risk buildings is working on establishing and operating a suitable system for the investigation of relevant complaints. Mandatory occurrence reporting is designed to help report structural flaws and fire risks that might arise at any point throughout the life cycle of a building and can cause catastrophes.
We are working to develop a suitable system(s) that will cover the following requirements:
· Introducing a more reliable reporting system that complements RIDDOR and voluntary occurrence reporting regimes.
· Strengthening the golden thread (or the digitally stored collection of information about a building and its safety).
· Boosting residents’ engagement to improve the accuracy and frequency of fire and structural risks.
8. Are you now able to publish a risk assessment for each of the buildings in scope?
All our Fire Risks Assessments are available for each resident upon request
9. Do all fire doors in every building in scope meet the full standard of fire prevention?
We carry out quarterly inspections of all the communal doors as well as service cupboard doors in each block, and a yearly inspection of the flat entrance doors to ensure all doors meet the full standard of fire prevention.
10. Do you know if any of the buildings in scope have any structural issues and can you provide full details of the utilities they use and if any of them impact on common parts of the building, or evacuation plans? Does fire stopping meets the appropriate standard so that compartmentation is not compromised?
We have carried out FRA4 inspections on all of our buildings in scope and we have identified any structural defect or issue in our buildings and we are confident that the fire stoppings in all our High-Rise properties meet appropriate standards of compartmentation.
11. Have you identified the 'responsible person' for each block?
All our FRAs has the detail of the responsible person for each block.