CHESHIRE East Council is calling on the Government to scrap private sector building control inspections to improve safety following the Grenfell Tower fire.

Cllr Ainsley Arnold, cabinet member for housing, planning and regeneration, is set to write to James Brokenshire MP, secretary of state for housing, communities and local government.

At Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, members agreed that in the letter Cllr Arnold should support steps being taken by Government to improve building safety – and call on it to consider making local authorities the sole provider of building control services for all developments.

Peter Kent, former Labour leader of Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council, told cabinet that he had been involved with the local authority building control service before and after the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 – which caused 72 deaths.

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He suggested that the blaze was ‘really something that people had seen coming for a long time’ after private sector firms began providing building control services in the 1990s.

Mr Kent said: “Inevitably the discussions on Grenfell have been focused on materials – cladding and so on – but the main factors that underpinned it have been the problem of inspections.

“The local authority building control service is and remains the only regulatory service that is subject to private sector competition.

“One particular private sector company stated in their advertisement that no application is ever turned down. I don’t know if that makes you feel safe, but it certainly doesn’t for me.

“The effect of this has been that standards have been driven down, and the Hackitt report commissioned by the Government underlines that.”

Cllr Brian Roberts, Labour member for Crewe West, added: “I’ve had the privilege of working in the construction industry for the best part of 50 years.

Winsford Guardian:

“I have had the benefit of both systems – control by the local authority and by the private sector.

“I know which was tougher, I know which was better on-site for application – needing assistance, needing local information, needing support. And the local authority gave that support.”

CEC’s discussion on building regulations was brought forward by Cllr Nick Mannion, Labour member for Macclefield Ivy and West.

He brought forward a motion calling for an immediate ban on the use of inflammable cladding on high-rise residential buildings and adequate compensation for councils faced with remediation costs.

Cllr Mannion also called for CEC to support local authorities being the sole provider of building control services in future and ‘an end to the constant denigration of health and safety’.

Cabinet members rejected his motion, suggesting that the Government was already carrying out most of the work as recommended by the Hackitt review which followed the Grenfell Tower fire.

But they said they would ‘support the spirit’ of Cllr Mannion’s motion while supporting the Government’s work – and agreed to call for the return of building control to the public sector.

Cllr Arnold added: “The Government has already agreed to implement all of the recommendations in the Hackitt review, and has recently revised regulations to ban the use of combustible cladding on high buildings.

Winsford Guardian:

“It has also agreed to fully fund the work to replace aluminium composite material cladding on public sector buildings.

“And it has agreed that in future, a new joint competent authority – composed of members from local authority building control, fire and rescue authorities, and the Health and Safety Executive – will oversee building regulations approval for high buildings.

“Government is addressing all the issues that are being raised by Cllr Mannion – we are writing to the Government to endorse their policy.”

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