Nearly a third of public buildings inspected in Bedfordshire found in breach of fire safety regulations

They included 25 factories or warehouses, 21 care homes and 17 schools

Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 12:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 12:02 pm

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

Home Office data shows 129 buildings inspected by Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service in the year to March did not comply with fire safety laws – 32 per cent of those inspected.

They included 25 factories or warehouses, 21 care homes and 17 schools.

In the year to March, Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service issued 10 formal notifications, including three enforcement notices and five prohibition notices

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, Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service issued 10 formal notifications, including three enforcement notices and five prohibition notices. There were no prosecutions.

With the number of inspections plummeting nationally due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) 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 per cent fewer than the previous year.

In Bedfordshire the number of audits dropped by 1,026 to 408 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.”