Chancellor cuts £ 5bn budget for dangerous coatings removal

CHANCELLOR RISHI Sunak used the latest budget to announce the government’s commitment of £ 5 billion to remove hazardous coatings from buildings most at risk. Speaking to Parliament, the Chancellor said this sum will be partly funded by the Residential Property Developers Tax (which will be levied on developers with profits exceeding £ 25million at a rate of 4%).

The news follows a call by the Commons Housing Select Committee to establish a new, larger fund “that addresses the real scale of fire safety problems.”

The government’s latest commitment is by no means the end of the post-Grenfell overhaul. The Building Safety Bill, released in July, aims to transform the existing fire safety system and increase accountability, transparency and oversight of fire safety throughout the life of a building. According to the proposals, a new national regulator will be established to maximize fire safety during the design, construction, completion and eventual occupancy stages of a building.

In addition, the government is also planning to change the law to give owners 15 years – instead of six – to take action against dishonest developers. In addition, new guidance from the British Standards Institution is expected by the end of the year regarding personal emergency evacuation plans for disabled and vulnerable residents.

Reduce risks in social housing

There are new and smart ways to reduce risk in social housing that can be implemented now to support the goals of the Building Safety Bill and the Fire Safety Act of 2021 and, ultimately account, protect tenants, property managers and landlords.

By introducing connected technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI), social landlords can ease some of the burden of fire prevention and make the lives of their tenants safer.

After Grenfell, more than 400 ‘Waking Watches’ were created across the country to monitor buildings, costing Londoners £ 145million a year alone. This is equivalent to more than a third of the annual budget of the London Fire Brigade, which itself is essential to protect the capital from deadly disasters such as fires, terrorist threats and floods.

Many commentators believe that using humans for fire prevention should not be the only intervention and is not financially sustainable in the long term. With remote monitoring and cloud connectivity of smoke detectors, social landlords can streamline fire prevention and create a centralized offsite monitoring opportunity.

Connected technology

Connected technology can be installed within the parameters of an existing budget and support short-term “Waking Watches” by sending instant notifications when an alarm is activated, devices are removed from the base or when a tenant needs help.

Going forward, a combination of IoT, robust fire detection and warning systems and evacuation plans tailored to the needs of each resident could completely replace the need for on-site “Waking Watches”.

Connecting to the IoT also allows homeowners to monitor essential characteristics such as the age and condition of the building and the wear and tear of electrical devices. This combination of IoT and AI technologies provides 24/7 insight into buildings and their changing fire risks, collecting data that can be analyzed for trends and patterns and actively supports project transparency goals. of Building Safety Act.

As at-risk tenants await further legislative updates, many believe the time has come for the fire industry and social landlords to keep pace with the future of fire safety and embrace new ways. protect the well-being of residents.

Lack of new funding

A lack of new funding for the fire and rescue services in the budget and expenditure review could prevent the former from coping with growing challenges, including climate change. This is according to the Union of Firefighters (FBU).

The budget and expenditure review did not contain any significant new financial commitments from the central government for fire and rescue services. This despite concerns about the lack of resources for the only challenges that exist, with response times increasing for every type of fire in England since 2010.

The fire and rescue services have suffered unprecedented budget cuts. Central funding in England has been cut by £ 400million since 2013-14, while the number of UK firefighters has fallen by a fifth since 2010.

FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack said: “Austerity has wiped out fire and rescue services. This budget and the expenditure review do nothing to remedy this situation. A worn-out fire and rescue service is unable to meet the challenges it currently faces, let alone take into account the bigger challenges that concerns such as climate change will pose in the future. The government has totally failed to look to the future and ensure that it provides enough funds for a professional and efficient fire and rescue service in the future. “

Climate change

Climate change is expected to pose a growing challenge for firefighters as they are on the front lines against floods and forest fires. In 2014, the UN’s IPCC stated that climate change could increase the annual cost of flooding in the UK by fifteenfold by the 2080s. Additionally, researchers found that threats from forest fires “Once a century” in the UK could happen most years by the year 2100.

Firefighters are “bitterly disappointed” that they have not seen any concrete investment commitment to pay funding in the budget and expenditure review, despite high levels of inflation. Firefighters have already lost around 12% of their wages in real terms over the past decade.

Wrack observed, “Firefighters are doing rescue work and have done extra work to help fight the pandemic. The least the government can do is reward them properly. On the one hand, the government is asking the public to applaud for key workers and, on the other hand, it is not improving the wages of these same workers, including firefighters.

This year’s spending review was particularly important as it runs from 2022-2023 through 2024-2025.

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