James Brokenshire – 2019 Statement on ACM Cladding

Below is the text of the statement made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, in the House of Commons on 18 July 2019.

I wish to update the House before the summer recess on building safety, including: my expectations of building owners on the removal of unsafe aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding; the steps this Government are taking on the remediation of existing buildings; wider updates on ​testing programmes; and early action on delivering the recommendations to reform the building safety regulatory system.

My priority is that residents should be safe—and feel safe—in their homes. All buildings with ACM cladding have had interim safety measures put in place as soon as they have been identified, and fire and rescue services are conducting inspections to ensure those measures remain in place.

However, too many people have been living in fear for too long because of the slow progress being made by those responsible for making their buildings permanently safe. While many building owners have rightly taken action, there are still a number of residential buildings across the public and private sectors with unsafe ACM cladding where remediation has not yet started.

I am clear that this situation is unacceptable. That is why I want to set out my expectations on the timing of remediation of buildings with unsafe ACM cladding. Given the £600 million of funding this Government have made available, there is no further excuse for delay.

In the social sector, other than a small handful of exceptional cases, remediation will be completed by the end of the year.

In the private sector, progress has been slower, which is why this Government took action by announcing a £200 million fund. By the end of December 2019, any building in the private sector which I have not been assured is permanently safe should have a clear commitment to remediation, with a start and finish date agreed. Where no such safety assurance or plan has been brought forward by the end of December, building owners can expect enforcement action to be taken. My expectation is that, other than in exceptional circumstances, building owners should complete remediation within six months of agreeing a plan, by June 2020.

I acknowledge that this Government also have a role to play in ensuring that remediation is undertaken. That is why, on 9 May I announced that this Government were introducing a new £200 million fund to unblock progress in remediating private sector high-rise residential buildings. My Department has been in contact with relevant building owners or managers to enable them to start preparatory work on an application to the fund. My Department will today publish a prospectus setting out the scope and eligibility criteria for the fund, how to apply and the timetable for submitting applications.

To help facilitate remediation, I would like to clarify the planning treatment of ACM cladding replacement works. Planning permission may not be required where the external appearance of a building is not materially altered by replacement cladding. Approval for recladding is only needed if the work amounts to “development” within the meaning of section 55 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 or is required within the terms of a previous planning permission.

Local planning authorities should take a proportionate approach and work proactively with building owners to identify whether planning approval is necessary. I strongly encourage developers to engage with the local planning authority at the earliest opportunity during development of their remediation plans.

Where a planning application is considered necessary, pre-application engagement can help to resolve any issues and assist local planning authorities in issuing ​timely decisions. Local planning authorities should also take a proportionate approach to the amount of information needed to support an application and consider carefully whether charging a fee for their early advice is appropriate in these cases. Decisions on applications should be made as quickly as possible and can be made as soon as the time limit for consultation has expired. Building owners would also need to ensure that the work complies with building regulations and that they obtain the necessary approval.

My Department has also commenced a data collection exercise which will enable the Department to build a complete picture of external wall systems in use on high rise residential buildings. We have asked local authorities and housing associations to identify external wall materials and insulation on all high-rise residential buildings 18 metres and over.

On 11 July a fire test in accordance with British standard 8414 was carried out at the laboratories of the fire protection association. This test was commissioned by my Department on the advice of the independent expert advisory panel and involved a cladding system consisting of a class B, fire retardant, high pressure laminate rain-screen with a non-combustible rock fibre insulation. This is part of an ongoing, systematic investigation into the fire risks from non-ACM cladding systems. I can confirm that this system met the relevant pass criteria and that the expert panel are satisfied that this specific system does not present a risk to public safety. Detailed advice from the expert panel on high pressure laminate cladding systems is also being published by my Department today.

My Department has also continued its investigations into fire doors. We have already made available the results of a sample of glass-reinforced plastic composite fire doors tested by my Department. Following the advice of the expert panel, Government expanded the testing to include timber fire doors. Today I am making available the results from the testing of a sample of timber fire doors from 25 manufacturers. I am pleased to report that all have succeeded in meeting the required 30-minute fire performance standard. The sample included a range of glazed and un-glazed fire doors with a variety of hardware and were tested on both sides of the door. The summary results of the timber fire door tests to inform building risk assessments are now available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/fire-door-investigation

As a result of our tests, the expert panel have concluded that they do not believe there is a performance concern with timber fire doors across industry, where they are purchased directly from the manufacturer and produced to specification.

It is important to be clear that, although the results of our testing provide assurances for residents who have concerns about their fire doors, it is for building owners to assure themselves that the fire doors they install are fit for purpose and have the required documentation and certification. Guidance for building owners who are replacing flat front entrance doors can be accessed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/advice- for-building-owners-on-assurance-and-replacing-of-flat-entrance-fire-doors

Since 2007, building regulations guidance has stated that all new blocks of flats over 30 metres should have sprinklers. In 2013, the Department wrote to all local authorities and housing associations, asking them to ​consider a coroner’s report recommendation that they should consider retro-fitting sprinklers in existing residential buildings over 30 metres.

The housing revenue account borrowing cap was abolished on 29 October 2018, giving freedom to local authorities to help finance unforeseen capital repairs programmes, such as retro fitting sprinklers, as well as build new homes. It is for building owners to seek professional advice and decide whether to fit sprinklers, on the basis of their assessment of the particular risk faced in their buildings.

At the heart of the regulatory reform is our intention to establish a regulator to oversee the safety and performance of all buildings. We are working closely with the health and safety executive (HSE), who are sharing their considerable regulatory experience and expertise to help us shape the functions of the new regulator, alongside other members of our joint regulators group. My Department is working with partners to develop proposals to allow the regulatory functions to exist prior to the new legislative regime being in place. We are similarly seeking the advice and input of the HSE on implementing the new regime following legislation.

James Brokenshire – 2019 Statement on Grenfell Tower

Below is the text of the statement made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, in the House of Commons on 17 July 2019.

Two years on from the Grenfell Tower tragedy, my priority is to ensure that everyone affected is receiving the support they need and deserve. The independent Grenfell recovery taskforce continues to provide challenge and advice to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) in its response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy. I recently received its fourth report, which I am today depositing in the Library of the House and publishing in full at gov.uk, alongside my response.

The taskforce has outlined the progress that the council has made since their last report of November 2018. RBKC have published its Grenfell recovery strategy and committed £50 million over the next five years to develop services to support the recovery. The recovery strategy is also prioritised in the new council plan. The taskforce reports that the dedicated service for the bereaved and survivors is the successful result of the council co-designing the service with its users. I welcome these significant steps forward.

On rehousing, the taskforce has again offered reassurance to Ministers that the council’s approach is appropriate and sensitive to the long-term needs of survivors. I am pleased that there has been further progress since I received the taskforce’s report with two more families moving into permanent accommodation. However, as I said in my oral statement on 10 June I remain concerned that households are still in emergency accommodation, including one in a hotel.

The taskforce has also welcomed the council’s demonstrable appetite to modernise its governance procedures. It cites its implementation of recommendations by the Centre for Public Scrutiny, including establishing a programme of listening forums. The taskforce has also identified the beginning of a culture change initiated by the chief executive and leader of the council.

The taskforce has highlighted developments in the council’s approach to community relationships and communications. RBKC has increased the number and means by which it engages with its residents including new meetings between the political leadership and some of those most affected by the tragedy. The taskforce also reports that it is seeing pockets of good practice pertaining to fostering good relationships with service users and the community.

Whilst the taskforce has noted good progress in many areas it is also clear that the council still faces significant challenges. The taskforce has identified that the pace by which the recovery is being implemented is still too slow and that this needs to be addressed. The taskforce has highlighted that strands of the recovery strategy remain in development, as well as the community programme and economy strategy. The taskforce therefore remain concerned about the capacity and corporate capability of the council to drive sustainable change. Although the rehousing programme is nearing completion the taskforce states that the council still faces substantial wider housing challenges. Whilst there is a programme to support and ​develop all councillors, the taskforce has noticed occasions where member behaviour has caused it concern. There is a high degree of social capital that the council has yet to fully tap into and the taskforce calls for an innovative approach to harness this enthusiasm. The taskforce has also highlighted that the culture change has still not permeated all levels of the council and silo working remains an issue.

The taskforce has set the bar high for RBKC’s recovery. It is important there is ambition and pace in the council’s recovery efforts over the next three to four months in responding to the taskforce’s recommendations, including:

Urgently implementing its recovery strategy;

Fostering a council-wide culture change so that everyone is working together;

Clearly communicating its recovery plan and develop stronger communications skills;

Ensuring that the senior team has the appropriate skills and resilience;

Making a clear commitment to creating a better relationship with its community.

I am assured the council has already set in train action to meet these recommendations. This includes a paper outlining its plans to implement organisational change at the council by 2020.

I will review the process in September, by which point I hope the council will have made sufficient further progress. I look forward to continuing to work with the taskforce.

James Brokenshire – 2019 Statement on the Local Government Audit

Below is the text of the statement made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, in the House of Commons on 10 July 2019.

Local government in England is responsible for 22% of total UK public sector expenditure. It is essential that local authority financial reporting is of the highest level of transparency to allow taxpayers to understand how their money is being spent.

The responsibilities for the framework within which local authority audits are conducted is the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014. It gave effect to commitments to abolish the Audit Commission and its centralised performance and inspection regimes and put in place a new localised audit regime, refocusing local accountability on improved transparency.

Now the Act has been fully implemented, the Government are required to review its effectiveness. The Government want to use this opportunity to step back and review the effectiveness of the local authority financial reporting and audit regime. Developments in the sector have led to a perceived widening of the “expectation gap”; that is, the difference between what users expect from an audit and the reality of what an audit is and what auditors’ responsibilities entail.

This is why I am today announcing a Government commissioned independent review to assess the effectiveness of the local authority audit framework and of the transparency of local authority financial reporting. I have asked Sir Tony Redmond, a former local government ombudsman, former local government boundary commissioner for England and former president of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy to chair this review.

This new review will examine the existing purpose, scope and quality of statutory audits of local authorities in England and the supporting regulatory framework to in order to determine:

Whether the audit and related regulatory framework for local authorities in England is operating in line with the policy intent set out in the Act and the related impact assessment;

Whether the reforms have improved the effectiveness of the control and governance framework along with the transparency of financial information presented by councils;

Whether the current statutory framework for local authority financial reporting supports the transparent disclosure of financial performance and enables users of the accounts to hold local authorities to account; and​
Appropriate recommendations on how far the process, products and framework may need to improve and evolve to meet the needs of local residents and local taxpayers, and the wider public interest.

A copy of the terms of reference has been placed in the Library of the House.

James Brokenshire – 2019 Speech at the Local Government Association Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, at the LGA Conference on 2 July 2019.

Introduction

When I first started thinking about this speech it is fair to say the world looked a bit different.

These are unique times.

So from the start I want to be clear with you all that just because it is difficult for me at this time to be expansive on new approaches or set out fresh policy with concrete certainty, I won’t be holding back on the sense of ambition or gratitude I have for local government.

Because from the smallest parish to the biggest urban metropolis, from our historic counties to reinventing coastal towns, our communities, in all their glorious diversity, are what make this country so special.

As such, your work in local government – at the heart of these communities – and our work at MHCLG in backing you is fundamental to Britain’s future.

That’s why – as I said last year – I’m such a strong believer in local government.

Now a lot has changed in the past 12 months – with more big changes to come.

But what has not changed is the significance of local government and my regard for you as the bedrock of our democracy; delivering day in day out for our communities.

Before I go on, I want to pay tribute to Lord Porter, who after leading the Local Government Association (LGA) with distinction since 2015 is handing over to his successor [Cllr] James Jamieson.

I’ve gotten to know James well over the last year and I know that I’ll continue to enjoy an excellent relationship with him.

Albeit, for how long, well that will be for someone else to decide!

But the sector could not have had a more determined champion than Gary, and is all the stronger for it.

I pay tribute to you Gary for the contribution you’ve made and the leadership you’ve shown.

Yes, the fish and chips and everything in between.

But most profoundly on reform and how I’m proud that we’ve delivered that lift on the housing borrowing cap which you championed to empower councils to get on and build more homes.

There are no excuses now but I know Gary that whilst you are stepping back from one role you will be stepping up your challenge to see that these new freedoms are harnessed to the fullest extent.

Thank you Gary for your service, your leadership and for being such an outstanding advocate for the good that local government can do.   And as we look towards new leadership at the LGA I can’t see a better future for this country that doesn’t have local democracy at the heart of it.

People taking control of their lives and places, striving for better for themselves and those they love.

For their neighbours, their towns and their cities.

There is a golden thread that runs through each us, binding us not just together, but to the places we call, and have called, home.

Local government role in delivering national policies

And that’s an emotional connection of which local government plays an important part in safeguarding and shaping.

And this is all the more impressive because local government has a role in this most delicate of things, through to the most robust.

Because whether we’re talking about big national programmes on housing, transport and infrastructure or maximising local economic growth, the fight against knife crime or revitalising our high streets, it always comes back to strong local leadership.

I very much appreciate your efforts to support local areas to prepare for Brexit in extremely testing circumstances – preparations that will be central to ensuring all communities stand to benefit.

And as we mark two years since the still unimaginable tragedy at Grenfell Tower, continuing to keep people in similar buildings safe and, critically, transforming our approach to building safety to ensure nothing like this can ever happen again.

It’s remarkable to think that local government provides over 800 services to residents and businesses in England – a breadth and volume of responsibilities that isn’t always fully appreciated.

You have continued to deliver against a difficult backdrop of constrained finances and big demographic shifts and, looking ahead, it’s clear there’s a lot at stake not only for vulnerable groups, but for the whole of our communities.

Funding and the settlement

I’m very thankful for everything you’ve done to rise to these challenges and to help reduce our debts and rebuild our economy – a significant contribution that, notably, hasn’t just been about driving efficiencies, but, increasingly, about innovating and improving public services.

I know this has been far from easy – and that’s why one of my absolute priorities is to deliver a sustainable future for local government.

This year’s local government finance settlement is an important step towards this – a settlement that provided a real-terms boost in spending, an extra £650 million for social care and which confirmed the government’s continuing approach to addressing negative RSG [revenue support grant].

Much of your funding; such as retained business rates – which have risen annually in line with the growth in business rates – and council tax is, of course, already locally sourced.

Underlining our commitment to putting local government truly in the driving seat – answerable not to central government, but to the communities you serve.

And we remain committed to implementing local government finance reforms, including increased business rates retention, incentives to authorities to help grow local businesses and a new approach to distributing funding.

I am grateful for your support and input as we continue to advance these significant reforms.

But it is right that we consider how we implement these reforms. And I recognise your concerns that we cannot wait until the end of the year to provide you with this clarity, with budget preparations and planning for 2020-21 already underway.

Overall funding available to local government will, of course, be a matter for the Spending Review but I will continue to make a powerful case for you – for local government – as a proud champion of the sector. To see that local government receives the support needed and gains as much certainty as we can as early as we can.

It is right that we look at the challenges and opportunities you face, and the funding you are currently relying on, including for social care, when we consider what a sustainable settlement looks like for local government for the coming years.

Green Paper

It’s clear that growing and evolving challenges demand we go further and that, at this time of great change, look to map the way ahead.

Look to get local government onto the front foot with a renewed confidence and sense of purpose – which means delivering a new deal for local government.

This is about funding, yes.

But it’s also about, I believe, a greater sense of shared responsibility for the difference we can all make for our people and places.

As someone who saw my father stand in your shoes, I take this responsibility extremely seriously. I know you do too.

Allied to my pragmatism and my passion for entrepreneurship, innovation and respecting the agency we all have to improve our lives and those around us, it’s why I’m a Conservative.

And it’s why I’m keen to see us working together more collaboratively to harness this collective responsibility to drive improvement – to get the difficult balance between managing day to day pressures and being dynamic and demanding excellence right.

That’s why I believe that the next leader of my Party will need to look afresh at the entire ecosystem underpinning local government and acknowledge that role we all have to play – to spot problems earlier, champion best practice and help each other improve.

Central government, for example, could and should do more to identify and support struggling councils earlier to prevent failure and protect residents.

The local audit system, too, could and should step up more robustly – not just because it reinforces confidence in financial reporting.

But because it reinforces service delivery and, ultimately, our faith in local democracy – with potentially far-reaching consequences when audits aren’t carried out properly and fail to detect significant problems.

That’s why we must heed concerns that have recently been raised by audit quality and whether the audit framework is too fragmented.

To that end – as many of you will know – I’ve committed to reviewing the audit framework.

I’m approaching this with an open mind, but our aim must be to ensure the framework helps members, Section 151 officers and chief executives make informed and responsible decisions about improvements.

I’m also interested in exploring how we can invite greater input from citizens on this as part a more open system.

I know the LGA – which does so much great work to raise the bar – is also keen to see the sector getting better support.

Which is why we’ve strengthened the focus on leadership and efficiency this year as part of our £19 million offer to help authorities improve that’s delivered by the LGA.

Like you, I want councils to excel and am open to your thoughts about what more we can do together to support this.

I know the New Burdens Doctrine is key to this.

Authorities must feel confident that the Doctrine is doing its job – fully assessing and funding any new requirements placed on them – something I’ve not hesitated to impress on my Cabinet colleagues.

And I’m grateful for the LGA’s insight and support to help my department make sure authorities don’t lose out financially.

To guard against this, it is right we look at the process and assure ourselves that it is fit for purpose.

This is a conversation we must have with you, and I look forward to hearing what you want to see on this front.

As I’ve said, it’s in all our interests to see you succeed.

And by fighting your corner in the Spending Review, by backing you to break new ground, by standing with you to take greater collective responsibility, I’m confident we can deliver the new deal that local government and our communities deserve.

A deal that resets the relationship between local and central government.

That sees us adapting, with ever more agility, to face the future with optimism.

That strengthens the special bond we share with our citizens and renews our democracy.

I want to see these plans set out in more detail in a Green Paper and welcome your input.

Troubled Families Programme

Because there’s so much great work and expertise out there in our authorities.

And I want us to do much more to celebrate and spread this; to ensure that early intervention and prevention becomes the norm rather than exception – as seen so powerfully in the Troubled Families Programme.   This inspirational initiative that has been helping around 400,000 families facing multiple challenges change their lives by fundamentally changing the way local services are delivered – with services joining up around whole families to overcome problems before they escalate.

When compared to a similar comparison group, the latest programme evaluation saw:

the number of children going into care down by a third,

the number of adults going to prison and juveniles in custody down by a quarter and a third respectively,

and 10% fewer people claiming Jobseekers Allowance.

It’s why I’m such a passionate advocate of the Programme and why I want to see a renewed programme for the years ahead.

Yes, the name may not be right and there are other improvements we can make.

But the programme is demonstrating the change in people’s lives it is making and we need to get behind it.

Housing

Housing is another vital area where local authorities need to strengthen their ability to deliver.

This is, undoubtedly, our top domestic priority – the challenge of a generation.

Whatever else changes, that will not change.

And as we mark the centenary of the Addison Act, it’s fitting that councils are once again leading the charge to help increase supply to 300,000 new homes a year.

In doing so, we want to help you maximise the potential the lifting of the HRA (Housing Revenue Account) cap offers by considering how you might boost your capabilities and develop joint ventures. Whether with housing associations and, indeed, the private sector to unlock more sites.

Ensuring we do reach the full ambition of a new generation of council homes.

This push also demands we build faster and reduce delays.

That’s why – as I said last week – we will be publishing an Accelerated Planning Green Paper – to look at how greater capacity and capability within local planning authorities, stronger plan-making, better performance management and procedural improvements can accelerate the end-to end planning process for all.

Delivery also depends on getting communities on board – communities who are more likely welcome new development when it’s underpinned by the right infrastructure.

Our £5.5 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund – which aims to unlock new homes in areas of greatest demand – reflects this.

And, as we get funds out of the door – just this month, in Woking and Truro – this is having an impact.

Conclusion

Self-sacrifice, frugality and belief.

These are virtues we rarely place in the context of public service, preferring instead to talk in pseudo motivational management speak; dynamism, agility, high energy.

Those words and phrases, however, are not the virtues of human beings. No, they are the characteristics of systems and processes. They are mechanical words.

And yet, when I see the best of public service, it is the opposite of the machine, it is deeply human. Fundamentally it is an honest and empathetic connection between people.

A social worker and a vulnerable child. A care worker and their elderly patient. A teacher and proud parents.

It is in these moments, these connections, that public service becomes more than material, and changes how we feel about ourselves.

Because public service should lift us all. Those who give and those who receive.

But it is easy to forget this deeper truth. Easier to fall back on mechanical words, on systems and processes.

You have had more pressure than most and a greater weight placed on you to help us correct the nation’s finances.

And for this reason, and others, it is so impressive that in spite of all that, when we meet, you don’t talk in spreadsheets or corporate strategies – well not all of you at least – but in terms of the people you love and the communities you serve.

I can see, that self-sacrifice, that frugality and that belief in yourselves that you can make a difference.

When thinking about what I wanted to say to you all, I knew above all that I wanted to say thank you for staying true to those virtues and never losing them.

Thank you to the councillors who give up their time to represent the communities they serve and thank you to the officers who work so diligently and fairly in supporting to deliver local priorities.

Now is clearly a time of change.

A new Prime Minister will be in post shortly and a new government. Such moments provide us with opportunities for that most important of things; renewal.

An opportunity to ask the bigger and more fundamental questions.

A renewed opportunity to ask ourselves how we can deliver better, smarter services for the people we serve.

And as we open this new chapter, be positive about the future for our communities, be positive about the future of our country and the intrinsic and special role that local government has to play.

Thank you.

James Brokenshire – 2019 Statement on Building Safety

Below is the text of the statement made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, in the House of Commons on 6 June 2019.

As we approach two years since the fire at Grenfell Tower and prepare to mark in respect and remembrance that devastating event, I wish to update the House on work we are doing to ensure people are safe and feel safe in their homes.

Today we are publishing a consultation seeking views on our proposals for a new system of building and fire safety which puts residents’ safety at its heart.​
Soon after the fire at Grenfell Tower, we commissioned the independent review of building regulations and fire safety, led by Dame Judith Hackitt.

Dame Judith concluded that the current system for ensuring fire safety in high-rise buildings was “not fit for purpose” and had lost public confidence and residents’ trust. We accepted Dame Judith’s diagnosis of the system and in December 2018, we published our implementation plan that committed to take forward the review’s recommendations as part of a fundamental reform of the system for “higher-risk residential buildings”.

The consultation we are publishing today, titled “Building a safer future: proposals for reform of the building safety regulatory system—a consultation”, outlines how we propose to take forward meaningful legislative reform and is seeking views on five areas of the new regime.

The first is the scope of the new regime. We propose the new regime applies, from the beginning, to all new and existing multi-occupied residential buildings of 18 metres or more, broadly in line with the ban on combustible materials which we brought into force last year. We propose that the system has flexibility to include other building types over time, based on evidence of risk and further research.

Secondly, we are proposing a comprehensive duty holder regime which means that at each stage of a building’s life—through design, construction and occupation, including those buildings already occupied—there will be clearly identified people who are directly accountable for the safety of residential buildings 18 metres or more. The duty holder regime will mean that for the first time there will be clear accountability on who owns building risks and clear responsibilities for managing the risks to ensure buildings are safe for residents. These responsibilities, which include creating and maintaining the digital records of a building and producing a safety case that will be approved by the new building safety regulator prior to issuing a building safety certificate, will be set out in law.

Thirdly, we are seeking views on giving residents a stronger voice in the new regime and ensuring their concerns are heard and acted on. We propose that residents should receive better information on their buildings so that they can participate in decisions about safety, as well as providing clear and quick routes of escalation for their concerns if things go wrong.

Fourthly, we have outlined plans for a new building safety regulator to provide oversight of the new building safety regulatory regime. This regulator will also oversee the wider building and regulatory system, incorporating and improving on the functions currently undertaken by the Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC). We are also proposing to strengthen the oversight and regulation of construction products.

Finally, the system proposed will be underpinned by strengthened enforcement and sanctions to deter non-compliance with the new regime. We believe that this will help to drive real culture change across the industry.

Alongside this consultation, we are also publishing:

A “quick read” version of the consultation document to ensure that the content is accessible to everyone.

The summary of responses to our call for evidence on engagement with residents.

The report from the industry-led competence steering group setting out their proposals for oversight of competence​

The Government are also launching a call for evidence on the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. We want to ensure that the Order is fit for purpose for all buildings it regulates. The call for evidence is the first step to updating the evidence base on the effectiveness of the Order, since this gives an opportunity for fire safety professionals and businesses or individuals regulated by the Fire Safety Order to share their views and experience on how the Order works in practice.

But we have not waited for legislation to make change. While successful, fundamental, real-world change on this scale, and across a complex market and regulatory landscape, will take time, we are acting now to reform the system. We have:

identified over 400 high-rise buildings with unsafe Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding, like the type used on Grenfell Tower, working with local authorities and fire and rescue authorities, ensuring that there are appropriate interim safety measures in place;

made £600 million funding available for the replacement of unsafe ACM cladding on high-rise residential homes in the social and private sectors;

made expert advice available to building owners on a range of other safety risks and taken action to remove unsafe products from the market;

laid regulations and guidance to ban the use of combustible materials during building work on the external walls of new buildings of 18 metres or more in height and containing blocks of flats, hospitals, residential care premises, dormitories in boarding schools and student accommodation;

consulted on a clarified version of the building regulations’ fire safety guidance (approved document B) and issued a call for evidence as the first step in a full technical review of the guidance. We are currently reviewing responses and will publish the clarified statutory guidance and response to the call for evidence in the summer; and

launched the social landlords resident engagement best practice group, to develop and share ways to better engage residents in keeping their buildings safe.

We have also established a joint regulators group to help us develop and pilot new approaches. Some of the proposals set out in the consultation are being tested and piloted voluntarily by construction firms and housing associations who have joined our Early Adopters work. Today also sees the launch of the Early Adopters’ Building Safety Charter. I welcome their leadership in this area and encourage others to follow them.

Our reforms are being developed to complement other important changes we are making elsewhere, such as those outlined in our Green Paper on social housing —“A new deal for social housing”— and reforms in the leasehold and private rented sectors.

The consultation opens today for eight weeks until 31 July. We will continue engaging with residents, industry and the wider sector as we develop these proposals further. The documents are published at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/building-a-safer-future-proposals-for-reform-of-the-building-safety-regulatory-system

The publication of the consultation I have announced today is essential for restoring trust in the building safety system and making sure that residents are safe now, and in the future.

James Brokenshire – 2019 Statement on Councils in Northamptonshire

Below is the text of the speech made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, in the House of Commons on 14 May 2019.

On 29 November 2018 I told the House that I was launching a statutory consultation on the proposal for reorganising local government in Northamptonshire which I had received from seven of the area’s eight principal councils. The councils had submitted this proposal in response to the invitation issued on 27 March 2018 following the recommendations in the independent inspection report on Northamptonshire County Council.

This locally-led proposal is to replace the existing eight councils across Northamptonshire (the County Council and seven district councils) with two new unitary councils—one for North Northamptonshire covering the existing districts of Kettering, Corby, East Northamptonshire and Wellingborough, and the other for West Northamptonshire covering the existing districts of Daventry, Northampton and South Northamptonshire. The proposal envisaged the new councils being fully operational from 1 April 2020.​
The statutory consultation closed on 25 January and invited views from councils concerned, other public sector providers and representatives of business and the voluntary sector and welcomed views from any interested persons.

I have received a total of 386 responses. The district and county councils—except for Corby Borough Council—and councillors and public service providers, including the Police and Crime Commissioner and health partners, generally supported the proposal. Responses from businesses, members of the public, parish councils and community organisations were more mixed.

This consultation supplements the consultation exercise undertaken on behalf of the Northamptonshire councils by the independent opinion research services. This exercise included face to face workshops, a representative telephone survey of Northamptonshire residents and an open questionnaire.

Ninety per cent of respondents to the telephone survey agreed that there was a need to make changes to Northamptonshire local government and 74% agreed with the unitary proposal; 83% of the over 6000 individuals who responded to the open questionnaire agreed that there was a need for change, with 67% agreeing that a number of unitary councils should be introduced and 44% supporting the proposal for two unitary councils.

I have now carefully considered the councils’ proposal, along with the results of the consultation exercises, a report by the Northamptonshire Children’s Commissioner, submitted to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and me, on how best to ensure continued improvement of the fragile children’s social care service in Northamptonshire in the context of reorganisation, and all other relevant information and material available to me. I have concluded that the proposal meets our publicly stated criteria for local government reorganisation. If implemented, I am satisfied that the proposal would improve local government and service delivery in the area, has a good deal of local support and the area of each new unitary represents a credible local geography.

This is on the basis that there is a children’s trust covering the whole of Northamptonshire, which, with my support, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education is minded to establish, as recommended by the Children’s Commissioner, if the unitary proposal is to be implemented. With such an arrangement children’s social care would not be disaggregated with the trust discharging functions on behalf of both councils. My right hon. Friend will be publishing the Commissioner’s report today. It is also on the basis that work continues to be taken forward in Northamptonshire to do more to integrate adult social care and health services.

I have therefore decided, subject to the issuing of statutory directions requiring the establishment of a children’s trust and to parliamentary approval of the secondary legislation, to use my powers under the local government and public involvement in Health Act 2007 to implement the proposal. These powers enable me to implement a unitary proposal with or without modification and in this case, having carefully considered all the material available to me, I have decided to make one modification to the proposal.

This is to extend the period for fully implementing the new arrangements so that the new councils are operational from 1 April 2021. While I recognise that a ​delay in implementation will mean potential savings estimated in the proposal will not be realised for another year, I am clear that the extended implementation period means we can be confident that there will be a safe and effective transition to all the new service delivery arrangements across the whole of the area, including for those crucial services supporting the most vulnerable. Throughout this extended period my Commissioners will be able to continue to support the County Council.

To support the transition, I have decided to establish shadow authorities. I envisage the May 2020 local elections in Northamptonshire will be elections to those shadow authorities rather than to district councils, with the district elections currently due on that date being cancelled. In line with the approach in the proposal for elections to the new unitary councils, I also envisage the elections to the shadow authorities are held on the basis of three member wards resulting in the North Northamptonshire Council having 78 members and West Northamptonshire ​Council having 93 members. Those so elected would be members of the new councils when these go live in April 2021. Elections to parish councils will proceed as scheduled in May 2020.1 intend to confirm these electoral arrangements shortly after hearing any views the district and county councils may have on this.

I now intend to prepare and lay before Parliament drafts of the necessary secondary legislation to give effect to my decisions. Establishing these new unitary councils will be a significant step towards ensuring the people and businesses across Northamptonshire can in future have the sustainable, high-quality local services they deserve. I welcome the commitment of all the existing councils and their partners to drive forward this process of establishing new councils and transforming local service delivery. I am confident this will continue.

James Brokenshire – 2019 Statement on Rough Sleeping

Below is the text of the statement made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State of Housing, Communities and Local Government, on 7 May 2019.

Early adopters of the Rapid Rehousing Pathway

In December, I announced the locations of the first 11 Somewhere Safe to Stay hubs, one of four elements that make up the Rapid Rehousing Pathway which were announced in the £100 million Rough Sleeping strategy last August. I am pleased to say that all 11 hubs are now operational. Furthermore, I can confirm that all 42 early adopters of the pathway, announced in February, are working hard to get staff in place and several are already delivering services. These 53 early adopters are focused on making sure that those who sleep rough, or are at risk of sleeping rough, are rapidly getting the support they need to move away from the street and sustain secure accommodation.

Rapid Rehousing Pathway new funding

I have now announced the allocations of up to £25.6 million of the second round of Rapid Rehousing Pathway funding. For 108 areas of the country this funding will provide:

20 additional Somewhere Safe to Stay hubs, to rapidly assess the needs of people who are sleeping rough and those who are at risk of sleeping rough and support them to get the right help quickly. This will bring the total number of hubs to 31,16 more than the minimum that we committed to in the 2018 Rough Sleeping strategy.

Up to £6.8 million of funding for 61 areas for supported lettings, offering flexible support funding to help people with a history of rough sleeping to sustain their tenancies in homes made newly available across the housing sector.

At least 130 navigators who will develop relationships with and help over 2,500 people who sleep rough to access appropriate local services, get off the streets and into settled accommodation.

Up to £3.5 million to establish or support 30 local lettings agencies to source, identify, or provide homes and advice for rough sleepers or those at risk.

A full list of the areas funded is available at: https://www. gov.uk/government/publications/rapid-rehousing-pathway-2019-to-2020-funding-allocations.

With this funding, local areas will be able to connect people with the right support and sustainable housing to move them swiftly away from the street and facilitate their recovery. This important work is part of delivering on the commitments outlined in the Rough Sleeping strategy and is crucial in bringing us a step closer towards ending rough sleeping.

James Brokenshire – 2019 Statement on the Private Rented Sector

Below is the text of the statement made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, in the House of Commons on 23 April 2019.

You will have seen that last week I announced reforms to the legislative framework governing how private tenancies can be ended in England to improve security in the private rented sector for both tenants and landlords. This announcement followed my Department’s recent consultation on “Overcoming the Barriers to Longer Tenancies”. I also published the Government’s response to this consultation.

The private rented sector has changed dramatically in the last 20 years, and the sector needs to keep pace with these changes. The number of people who live in the private rented sector has doubled, and it is home to more families with children and older people. These households need stability and security in their home.

The current legislative framework leaves tenants feeling insecure. They can be asked to leave their homes, with as little as two months notice, without the landlord ​providing any reason, using eviction proceedings under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. This sense of insecurity can profoundly affect the ability of renters to plan for the future, to manage their finances or to put down roots in their local communities.

The Government intend to establish a fairer system for both tenants and landlords by legislating to repeal section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. Bringing an end to so-called “no fault evictions”, would mean that a tenant cannot be forced to leave their home unless the landlord can prove a specified ground, such as rent arrears or breach of tenancy agreement. It would provide tenants with more stability and protect them from having to make frequent and short notice moves. It would also empower tenants to challenge their landlord about poor property standards where this occurs, without the worry of being evicted as a result of making a complaint.

The private rented sector must also remain a stable and secure market for landlords to continue to invest in. The legislation I intend to introduce will include measures that provide landlords with additional safeguards to successfully manage their properties. We will strengthen the existing grounds for eviction available to landlords under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988. This will allow the landlord to regain their property when they want to sell it or move into it themselves.

It is important that landlords can have confidence that the court system works for them in instances when there is no other option but to seek possession of their property through the courts. That is why this announcement includes improvements to court processes, to make it quicker and smoother for landlords to regain their properties when they have a legitimate reason to do so.

Removing no-fault evictions is a significant step. This announcement is the start of a longer process to introduce these reforms. We want to build a consensus on a package of reforms to improve security for tenants while providing landlords with the confidence that they have the tools they need.

We will launch a consultation on the details of a better system that will work for landlords and tenants. The Government will collaborate with and listen to landlords, tenants and others in the private rented sector to develop a new deal for renting. Ministers will also work with other types of housing providers outside of the private rented sector who use these powers and use the consultation to make sure the new system works effectively.

James Brokenshire – 2019 Speech at Kindertransport Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, at the Kindertransport Conference held on 15 April 2019.

It is a genuine pleasure, and privilege and honour to join you all today to mark the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport.

I’m incredibly grateful to the Association of Jewish Refugees for hosting this really significant, really important conference and quite literally bringing us all together – including so many Kinder from across the world.

It was very special to be able to meet some of you just before this session and hear how the work continues on ensuring that we have that record of history of some of the things we have heard about this morning. And just how much that matters. It’s a mark of just how seminal the Kindertransport has been to countless lives.

There’s also another very special mention, these wonderful surroundings that we’re in this afternoon have equally made me reflect on previous events that we did at the Speaker’s house in the House of Commons, where I was among a number of MPs able to read-out some of the debate in the House of Commons that led to the Kindertransport happening.

And just to be able to read some of those words again in Parliament, to be able to remind ourselves of some the issues that were just so relevant, some of that debate, some of the tensions. But equally to underline its relevance to our politics today. Never forgetting. Always underlining that sense of challenging inequality or division or hatred. But all that we have as a country in that regard and equally the responsibilities that we have in terms of our support for refugees and our place in the world in that regard.

So I think it’s actually quite fitting that we should meet here at Lancaster House, a place that has played such an important role in world events. Indeed, many here will recall Lancaster House as the seat of so many meetings that changed the shape of central Europe after the war.

Legacy

But in turn, the Kindertransport has shaped us as a country. The United Kingdom took in nearly 10,000 predominantly Jewish children, from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland.

It’s something we remain very proud of, yes. But equally, we can be proud of the incredible contributions of the Kinder to the life of this country.

And some of it strikes a personal chord for me. My father-in-law was not one of the Kinder, but he escaped Nazi Germany to Britain as a small child with the help of Frank Foley, the MI6 officer based in the British Embassy in Berlin, who did so much to provide the papers and facilitated so many Jewish people to leave Germany and make a better life elsewhere.

His father – my children’s great-grandfather – was interned in Buchenwald in the aftermath of Kristallnacht. Mercifully, he was reunited with his family.

But I know that so many people, including many people here, were not so lucky.

The Kindertransport is a story of great pride, yes. But it is also marked with deep sadness at every turn. It provokes painful questions. Why only children? What happened to the parents? What became of brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles?

Sadly, we know that the Kinder were often the only surviving members of their family. It is a difficult legacy – but one that we must remember. One that we must never forget.

And the Holocaust has had a monumental impact on our country’s history, our democracy and our values. Even today, it continues to shape us: from people like me, like my family with connections to survivors and refugees, to our society at large as we continue to stand up and challenge the scourge of antisemitism.

Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre

That is why it is right that we remember the Holocaust, that we apply the lessons of the Holocaust – and have a Memorial here in Britain.

Because the murder of the 6 million Jewish men, women and children must never be forgotten. Nor should the murders of the Roma and other victims of Nazi persecution. Nor still, the subsequent genocides across the world that have scarred the decades since.

And today, as we mark the anniversary of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen – by British troops so wholly unprepared for the horrors they found – it is important we all reflect on what they confronted there.

It is why our new Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre, I think, will be so important for our nation.

It will be a centre for remembrance and education at the very heart of our national life. A place where future generations can learn the lessons of the past, through the powerful stories like the Kindertransport and the liberation of Bergen-Belsen.

Beacon of learning and remembrance

And I want to reassure our country’s Holocaust survivors, Kinder and refugees that this important Memorial will be delivered, because we remain determined that our country stands together against the hatred, against the ignorance and against the bigotry that led to the Holocaust and other genocides.

Victoria Tower Gardens will be an exceptional setting for this place of reflection and education, inspiring us all to stand up whenever the values we share are challenged.

Moreover, it is right that the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre should be next to our Houses of Parliament, at the heart of our democracy, standing as an important reminder of parliament’s power to oppress – and its duty to protect.

Which comes back to why we are here today – underlining that sense of past. Underlining that sense of the important role that we have in helping in international crisis and our response through refugees.

So, as we gather today to remember and rethink the legacy of the Kindertransport, it is my sincere hope that our Memorial will become a powerful beacon of future learning and remembrance.

Learning and remembrance which I know is at the heart of today’s events and why it is so important that we come together, that we remember, and that we apply those lessons for the future.

Thank you very much.

James Brokenshire – 2019 Statement on the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission

Below is the text of the statement made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, in the House of Commons on 25 March 2019.

At autumn Budget 2016, the Government asked the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission to develop an ambitious vision and delivery plan for North Kent, South Essex and East London up to 2050. In June 2018, the commission, led originally by Lord Heseltine and concluded by Sir John Armitt, announced their vision for the estuary. I sincerely ​thank Sir John and all the members of the commission for their expertise and scrutiny across the duration of the commission.

Comparable in scale to the midlands engine, northern powerhouse and Oxford-Cambridge arc, the Thames estuary has the potential to deliver growth to support the success of the whole of the UK economy. The Commission envisioned that by 2050 the

Thames estuary will be a tapestry of productive places along a global river. The estuary will create 1.3 million new jobs and generate £190 billion additional gross value added.

The Thames estuary has long been a gateway to the wider UK economy but there remain pockets of entrenched deprivation within the region. And this area is not yet fully delivering on its great potential.

I welcome the vision for growth that the commission has set out. I am pleased to announce further commitments from this Government to support the delivery of the commission’s vision, including: £1 million to support a new Thames estuary growth board; appointing a Cabinet-level ministerial champion; £4.85 million to support local partners to develop low-cost proposals for enhancing transport services between Abbey Wood and Ebbsfleet, subject to suitable housing ambition; exploring the potential for at least two new locally-led development corporations; launching a strategic communications campaign to promote the Thames estuary as a great place to live, work and do business; funding for the creation of masterplans and feasibility studies on key sites in the Thames estuary creative production corridor; and bringing together relevant authorities to collaborate on the Thames estuary 2100 plan, to make sure that growth in the estuary is sustainable and resilient. My full response is available: www.gov.uk.

Our response to the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission marks this Government’s commitment to this important area of the country. The Thames estuary has great potential to provide well-balanced, inclusive economic growth and will remain vital for the UK economy following Brexit.