Building Stress: a survey of building control staff

Building Stress Damage ReportThis survey is the latest in our Damage series of reports which looks at the impact of austerity cuts on the country’s public services and the people who deliver them. It shows a group of workers who are short-staffed, overworked, stressed and long overdue a pay rise.

This report reveals 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.

The Building Standards service in Scotland is provided by local authorities. Their role is the processing of building warrants, therefore checking building design and construction. They are also required to ensure that buildings are made safe.

Key findings from the survey show:

  • Almost half (48%) said there have been budget cuts this year while one in five (20%) said the cuts had been severe.
  • There are 56 less staff working in Building Standards departments now 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.

Those who took part in the survey included team leaders, senior building standards officers, surveyors and building control surveyors. To supplement the information given by members we also placed a freedom of information request with all local authorities. We received responses from 30 of those authorities.

Salami-slicing of services avoids headlines but the long years of austerity are having a sever impact on our services and the staff trying to deliver them with limited resources. These are small teams where the loss of even one member has a substantial impact on the team.

People with these qualifications are in demand and there is a real risk that without decent jobs and pay they will take up better paid opportunities in the private sector.