UNISON generally welcomes proposals to protect the public through strengthening building standards compliance and fire safety. The success of these proposal and building standards in general depends on there being adequate resources to properly resource building standards teams in local authorities to enable them operate effectively now and in the future.
Building standards teams need substantial extra funding. A survey of building standards staff carried out by UNISON last year revealed a dedicated workforce committed to ensuring that buildings meet the standards required but who are under enormous pressure. They feel exhausted, undervalued and are struggling to deal with the demands placed upon them.
Key findings from the survey showed:
- Almost half (48%) said there have been budget cuts this year (2017) while one in five (20%) said the cuts had been severe.
- There are 56 less staff working in Building Standards departments now (2017) than in 2010.
- The overwhelming majority (89%) feel their workload has got heavier in the last few years.
- Almost half (47%) felt they should spend a lot more time on site visits while just 13% felt they had the right balance between site visits and office time.
- Nearly 40% work unpaid hours ‘now and again’ while over a third (37%) work unpaid hours most weeks.
- 48% described morale as low, with over three quarters (78%) saying they don’t expect it to improve as a result of budget cuts, increased workload and lack of a pay rise.
These proposals offer some opportunities to better protect citizens through increased inspections and clearly defined roles but budget cuts and staff shortages will impact on the effectiveness of these changes. Increased funding is needed to deliver improvement.