The British Woodworking Federation (BWF) is calling for the Treasury to make an allocation for potentially life-critical work by creating a Building Safety Fund. This will offer a solution to the current predicament of Housing Associations and Local Authorities, providing them with a scheme to apply to for compensation equivalent to a percentage of the likely costs of any replacement and repair works. This would alleviate concerns from building managers, owners and most importantly, tenants, while helping consolidate legal matters through a centrally controlled precedence. It will also ensure that other vital corrective work is not ignored and we are not storing up bigger problems in buildings for the future.
It is crucial that vitally important activity on buildings that have been rendered unsafe is not delayed due to financial considerations. Although the cost of this may need to be born through insurance premiums, when the true cost of Grenfell is considered, it is not one that can be responsibly ignored.
In a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, BWF Chief Executive Iain McIlwee said,
“I am writing to you on behalf of our Members who supply a range of timber products including fire doors. Our concern is on consideration given to corrective works in social housing in the Autumn Budget Statement. The Grenfell tragedy underpins how, over the years, the regulatory environment, enforcement and working practices have rendered many buildings unsafe. Whilst we expect to hear from the Hackitt review on Monday how things can improve moving forward, we must confront the legacy problem. It is vitally important that activity, that may save lives, is not delayed due to financial considerations.
“Whilst all accept that the public purse has limitations, it is imperative that we see the Treasury making an allocation for such potentially life-critical work. We believe that serious consideration should be given to establishing a Building Safety Fund, similar to the Pension Protection Fund. There are parallels with the pension crisis and the issue of vulnerable people exposed. The fund would allow Housing Associations and Local Authorities to focus on what needed to be done whilst applying to the scheme to fund the works (a defined percentage of the likely costs). The Building Safety Fund could also, as with the Pension Protection Fund, manage litigation should it be deemed a third-party is liable.
“This would alleviate concerns from existing building managers, allow focus on the fundamentals and help to centralise legal matters through controlled precedence. The Fund would need to be levied in some way, potentially via insurance premium tax.
“We would be only too happy to provide any support we can give in helping to explore and develop this concept, either directly or through our wider networks.”
BWF is the active voice on behalf of the Woodworking Sector in the UK.The sector is a fundamental part of UK manufacturing. It represents an estimated £3.8 billion spread across 5,070 firms in the UK and employing 60,000 people As the leading authority for the joinery industry, BWF represents its members' views to Government, the construction industry, the wider public, and increasingly, to the international community.
A full copy of the letter sent to Treasury is available here.