RICS identified fire safety, within the larger topic of housing supply, as one of the key issues for the next government to tackle. Home Office statistics show that there were 253 fire-related fatalities in England in 2018/19. It is imperative that the next parliament sees the introduction of clear, coherent policy and legislation in order to reduce the risk to the public and embed universally agreed fire safety standards and practice.
We were therefore disappointed to note that this does not appear as a priority issue within the Liberal Democrats manifesto, and that there is no reference at all to fire safety, the Hackitt Review or Grenfell within the document.
The Conservatives manifesto states that they will implement and legislate for all the recommendations within the Hackitt Review. As a contributor to the report, RICS welcomes this development, and we also welcome the Conservatives statement that they will 'continue to work with industry, housing associations and individuals to ensure every home is safe and secure.'
Labour has outlined the most comprehensive policy on fire safety. They pledge to 'introduce a £1bn Fire Safety fund to fit sprinklers and other fire safety measures in all high-rise council and housing association tower blocks, enforce the replacement of dangerous Grenfell-style cladding on all high-rise homes and buildings, while introducing mandatory building standards and guidance, inspected and enforced by fully trained Fire and Rescue Service fire safety officers.'
RICS discussed building and fire safety with Labour representatives during the current parliamentary term and we are pleased to see they have listened to our advice and prioritised sprinklers, cladding and standards around this important area.
Despite this positive outlook, it is important that Labour does not inadvertently create a two-tier system. Many fires occur in privately-owned buildings and they need to have the same sprinkler commitments as those within the social sector.
RICS has been a sectoral leader on fire safety through a number of high-level activities, such as forming the International Fire Safety Standards (IFSS) Coalition backed by the UN and launched there in July 2018, and publishing the consumer Fire Safety guide in September 2019. This clear and impartial guide is for the general public, and highlights the responsibilities of homeowners, landlords and tenants in keeping properties safe regardless of the tenure or type of home they live in.
RICS' expertise and contribution to fire safety in the UK was recognised by parliamentarians in the previous session but the next government must ensure fire safety remains high on the agenda, as well as ensuring standards and practical advice are approved and adopted at a national level.
Hew Edgar MCIPR
Head of UK Government Relations & City Strategy