Fire safety shock: Inspection of public buildings in Buckinghamshire found nearly a quarter in breach of safety regulations

List includes 14 care homes, 11 licensed premises and seven with other sleeping accomodation

Friday, 17th September 2021, 4:43 pm

Nearly a quarter of public buildings inspected in Buckinghamshire last year were found in breach of fire safety regulations, figures reveal.

Home Office data shows 64 buildings inspected by the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Fire and Rescue Service in the year to March did not comply with fire safety laws – 22% of those inspected.

They included 14 care homes, 11 licensed premises and seven other forms of sleeping accommodation.

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Many public buildings don't meet fire safety regulations

Fire services conduct audits on most public buildings and the shared areas of residential properties such as flats to make sure they meet safety regulations.

When inspections are unsatisfactory, auditors may issue an informal notification – for example to agree an action plan – or formal ones such as enforcement notices, warning that a building breaches the law.

In the most serious cases, inspectors may issue a prohibition notice to restrict or ban access to a building or they may prosecute those responsible for the property’s safety.

In the year to March, the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Fire and Rescue Service issued 25 formal notifications, including 12 enforcement notices, 10 prohibition notices and one prosecution.

With the number of inspections plummeting nationally due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Fire Brigades Union warned catching up will be made difficult by a drop in the number of inspectors.

In response to the pandemic, a number of audits were also carried out remotely, though a figure has not been provided by the Home Office.

Across England, 34,400 fire safety audits were carried out in 2020-21 – 29% fewer than the previous year.

However, in Buckinghamshire the number of audits increased by 30 to 297 in the period.

Matt Wrack, the FBU's general secretary, said: "It is understandable that audit figures have dipped during the pandemic, given the reduction in non-emergency contact with the public.

"Any shortfall in inspections needs to be made up, however.

"This may be difficult, though, with steep falls in the number of fire inspectors in recent years.

“This fall in inspectors is also concerning due to the building safety issues that have come to light since Grenfell and the increased number of buildings fire inspectors are responsible for."

The Government said it was committed to learning lessons from the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017 – the fire at a London tower block, which killed more than 70 people.

Fire Minister Lord Greenhalgh said: “Stopping fires before they start is the best way to keep the places where we work and live safe, which is our number one priority.

"Where any issues are identified in initial desktop audits our fire and rescue services will follow up with full audits conducted in person.”