Fire safety checks fall in Northumberland

Fire safety experts in Northumberland carried out fewer safety checks on public buildings last year, new figures reveal.

By Tommy Lumby
Monday, 14th September 2020, 1:35 pm
Fire safety checks at public buildings in Northumberland dropped last year
Fire safety checks at public buildings in Northumberland dropped last year

Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service conducts safety audits on most public buildings and the shared areas in residential properties such as flats but inspections hit a record low nationally last year and the Fire Brigades Union warns the scale of the building safety crisis – exposed by the Grenfell Tower fire – is “beyond all current comprehension”.

Home Office data shows Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service completed 427 fire safety audits on buildings in 2019-20.

This was 1,133 fewer than the 1,560 inspections recorded in 2010-11, when comparable records began.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Nationally, the number of audits also fell to a record low of 48,400 last year – 43% fewer than in 2010-11.

Buildings tested include care homes, hospitals and high-rises, as well as schools and shops.

Of the audits undertaken in Northumberland last year, 146 (34%) resulted in an “unsatisfactory” rating – with crews issued 133 informal notifications to premises that had failed an audit, explaining what action needed to be taken.

Crews also handed out four prohibition notices, ordering access to a building be restricted or for it to be closed altogether.

Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union general secretary, said: “The Grenfell Tower fire exposed the shameful state of building safety in the UK.

"The scale of the building safety crisis is beyond all current comprehension – and firefighters have a crucial role to play in tackling it.”

Mr Wrack said the union supports the Government’s new bills on fire safety and building safety, which aim to expand firefighters’ prevention and protection work but added: “To be effective, the fire and rescue service must be properly funded. As things stand, the Government is trying to do public safety on the cheap.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said the Government was committed to providing fire services with the resources they need.

She said: “Funding for standalone fire and rescue services has increased by 3.2% in 2020-21.

“We’ve also made more than £20m of funding available to the sector to support fire protection work – £16m of which is being invested directly to increase the number of audits and qualified officers.”