Posted: Fri 7th Jul 2023

Dangerous structures policy reworded from “do nothing” to “status quo” /
This article is old - Published: Friday, Jul 7th, 2023

A councillor wants to change the wording of a council report from “do nothing” to “status quo” in case people think badly of Blaenau Gwen council. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Planning Department on Thursday, July 6, councillors were updated on a decision taken by senior staff back in April on out-of-hours callouts to dangerous structures. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The issue has been highlighted by the council’s internal auditors, who said that it posed a risk to the council.
This saw senior staff take another look at the policy. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Head of planning, Steve Smith, explained that the corporate leadership team (CLT) had decided to “do nothing” and continue with existing arrangements, through which a building control officer might not attend an incident if called out of hours.
This decision was originally made in 2016 when a review of staff on standby and the out of hours policy was conducted. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Mr Smith said: “Historically we did run an out of hours rota between the four building inspectors that we had at that time.
“However, there was a review which meant that the out of hours allowances and services were cut to the point that officers were reluctant to respond to calls because they didn’t feel the policy was operating fairly.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

By now there are only two building control officers who are “capable” of responding to calls.
Mr Smith told the committee that the CLT had looked at three options. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Firstly, to do nothing, accept the risk and pick up the case the following day – this was the preferred option.
Secondly to try and outsource the service. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

But Mr Smith said there were issues with this option as it is “difficult” to find private companies able to price the work when they don’t know how often they would be called out. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

A third option was to reintroduce the service – but this would involve extra costs incurred to the council and, according to Mr Smith, there was “reluctance” within the council to do this.
Mr Smith said: “CLT took the decision – rightly in my view – that we will no longer provide the service.
“It’s not saying that an officer won’t attend – but we can’t guarantee there will be an officer at the end of the line if someone phones at 2am on a wet February night.
“With just two officers it’s impossible to run a rota, if someone is on holiday or sick there’s one person permanently on call.
“It’s not ideal but it’s pragmatic and sensible approach – there’s always a what-if scenario if there’s a major incident.
“If there is one and the call goes up, I like to think all council officers will attend regardless.”
Cllr Wayne Hodgins said: “I fully understand what’s been said – where it says the options and ‘do nothing’ I’d like to see that changed to ‘status quo’.
“It sends out the wrong corporate image for anyone reading this and it sounds like the authority is reneging on its responsibilities.”
Mr Smith said: “I take your point.”
The committee agreed with the recommendation to “do nothing.”
The report will also go to a meeting of the Governance and Audit committee for discussion. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

By BBC LDRS ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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