Y Pwyllgor Cyfrifon Cyhoeddus a Gweinyddiaeth Gyhoeddus

Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee


Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Adam Price
Altaf Hussain Yn dirprwyo ar ran Nastasha Asghar
Substitute for Nastasha Asghar
Mark Isherwood Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Mike Hedges

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Charles Rigby Archwilio Cymru
Audit Wales
Emma Williams Cyfarwyddwr, Tai ac Adfywio, Llywodraeth Cymru
Director, Housing and Regeneration, Welsh Government
John Howells Cyfarwyddwr, Newid Hinsawdd, Cynllunio ac Ynni, Llywodraeth Cymru
Director, Climate Change, Planning and Energy, Welsh Government
Matthew Mortlock Archwilio Cymru
Audit Wales
Neil Hemington Pennaeth Cynllunio, Llywodraeth Cymru
Head of Planning, Welsh Government
Tracey Burke Cyfarwyddwr Cyffredinol, Newid Hinsawdd a Materion Gwledig, Llywodraeth Cymru
Director General, Climate Change and Rural Affairs, Welsh Government

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Fay Bowen Clerc
Owain Davies Ail Glerc
Second Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:17.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:17.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introduction, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Bore da, croeso. Good morning and welcome to this morning's meeting of the Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee in the Senedd. Welcome to Members and witnesses, who we'll be hearing from later. We've had one apology for absence from Rhianon Passmore. Actually, we had a second apology for absence from Natasha Asghar, but she's being represented instead by Altaf Hussain, who will be a member of the committee today. Do Members have any declarations of registerable interests they wish to declare before we start? I see nobody indicating, and I assume that's a 'no'.

2. Papurau i'w nodi
2. Papers to note

We've received a paper to note from the director general for the economy, Treasury and constitution on the Wales life sciences investment fund. He's written to us setting out a response to the questions the committee did not have time to reach during the evidence session with the Welsh Government and development bank on 27 September 2023. Members, can I ask whether you are content with the updates that Mr Slade has provided, or whether you have any comments? [Interruption.]

Shall we take a short break just to investigate what the sound is?

Yes. We're just going to take a short break, then, okay. 

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 09:19 a 09:24.

The meeting adjourned between 09:19 and 09:24.


Croeso. Welcome back to this morning's meeting of the Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee. Unfortunately, we had a technical difficulty, but that, hopefully, has now been resolved. I concluded by inviting Members to comment on a letter we'd received from the director general of the economy, Treasury and constitution on the Wales life sciences investment fund, and I believe Adam Price has a comment. 

Ie, mae yna lot o wybodaeth fanwl fan hyn, Cadeirydd, ond yr hyn dwi am awgrymu yw ein bod ni'n dychwelyd at y pwnc yma, gan dderbyn cyngor ynglŷn â'r wybodaeth newydd yma, ond hefyd yn sgil derbyn yr adroddiad gwerthuso llawn gan y banc datblygu dŷn ni wedi cael addewid y byddwn ni yn ei dderbyn. Felly, ar ôl cael y wybodaeth yna i gyd, efallai y gallwn ni ddychwelyd at y pwnc. 

Yes, there is a lot of detailed information here, Chair, but what I want to suggest is that we do return to this subject, and accepting advice on this new information, but also in the wake of receiving the full evaluation report from the development bank. We've had a commitment that we will receive that. So, after having that information, maybe we can return to this subject. 


Ie, os ydy hynny'n bosib hefyd, ynglŷn â'r wybodaeth yma, a hefyd yr adroddiad gwerthuso a ddaw maes o law.

Yes, if that is possible as well, in terms of this information, and the evaluation report that we will receive in due course.

I think we agree with Adam's view and we can provide further advice and support to the committee at that point, but I think the evaluation report will tell a fuller story of the outcomes from the fund overall. So, it's worth waiting to see that.

3. Sesiwn dystiolaeth gyda Llywodraeth Cymru: Diogelwch Adeiladau yng Nghymru
3. Evidence Session with the Welsh Government: Building Safety in Wales

That brings us on to our evidence session this morning for our inquiry into building safety, and our session today is with Welsh Government officials. On 1 August 2023 the auditor general published a report on building safety in the context of implementation of the requirements of the Building Safety Act 2022. We considered the report at our meeting on 14 September last year and agreed to take further evidence, and today is our second evidence session for that inquiry. So, I'm pleased to welcome our witnesses to the meeting, and I'd be grateful if each of you could state your name and role for the record. Perhaps if you work from your right to your left.

Okay. Bore da, Cadeirydd. Good morning, Chair. My name is Tracey Burke. I'm the director general for climate change and rural affairs.

Bore da. Emma Williams, director for housing and regeneration.

Bore da. Neil Hemington, chief planner, with responsibility for building regulations as well.

Bore da. John Howells, cyfarwyddwr newid hinsawdd, ynni a chynllunio.

Good morning. John Howells, director of climate change, planning and energy.

Again, thank you all for attending this morning. As you'd expect, we have a number of questions, as always. I'd therefore be grateful if both Members and witnesses could be as succinct as possible to enable us to cover the wide range of issues this topic has generated. As convention has it, as Chair, I will start the questioning, and then bring colleagues in as we proceed. If I could start by focusing on service planning and asking you to what extent the Welsh Government is satisfied that its timetable for developing supporting guidance and legislation remains realistic and achievable for the system to be fully in force from April 2025?

Thank you, Chair. I think I'll take that question on behalf of colleagues. I listened in to your previous session with Local Authority Building Control, and I think they described it as being challenging but realistic, and I think that was a very good and fair assessment of where it is. I think we would agree with that. It is challenging, but it is definitely doable. We've deliberately split the timetable into two phases so that we don't overwhelm the sector with the scale of change that is coming, and that allows us enough time to consult and properly engage with people as we draft the legislation and introduce the new procedures. So, as I say, not without challenge, but doable from our perspective.

Okay. Nobody else wishes to comment? That's fine, thank you. What resources are now in place within Welsh Government dedicated to the policy and technical work required for the new system? And I wonder if you could share with us whether all relevant posts, including specialist roles, are now filled with staff in post, and whether this staffing is sustainable given wider budget pressures?

It's quite a good question in terms of the sustainability, Chair. So, the auditor general, when this work was undertaken, did point out the number of vacancies that we had in the team at the time, and I can say that we have been active in recruitment prioritising this area amongst our resourcing pressures. So, the team that are now working on this report, the building regulations team, is at full complement, so that has been addressed. However, there are vacancies in the wider policy and technical team, which we are seeking to address. But in terms of taking this work forward, we do have a full team to do that.

Briefly, in terms of the vacancies, you indicate those exist because you haven't yet advertised for them, or are there supply issues you're encountering?

So, I think, probably similar to the sector as a whole, there are challenges with getting people with the right skills, the right qualification and the right technical expertise, but, balanced against that, as the Welsh Government as a whole, we have resource pressures. So, we have to prioritise roles, and, in doing that, that means that, sometimes, it can take quite a while to fill key roles. So, I'm confident that we have the resources in place to deliver the phases of the building control implementation, but in some areas, that is one-person deep, that expertise, so there is some fragility, I suppose, in the staffing.


Are you able to share your view on whether that fragility will be addressed, or is it likely to be long term?

As I say, the team that we have at the moment is that full complement, to deliver this work. I think the wider resourcing is—. Building control, building safety, is an area of high priority in the Welsh Government, and I have been able to attract resources from elsewhere in the Welsh Government into this area. I think what I'm saying is probably a little bit like my first answer to you, Chair: it's challenging, but I'm confident that we can deliver the work.

Okay. To what extent has the Welsh Government involved key organisations, stakeholders, in developing its plans and guidance, and how does it intend to continue to do so?

We've done a tremendous amount in this area in terms of stakeholder engagement, Chair. Again, I was listening to the Local Authority Building Control evidence session as part of my preparation to come here today, and they were complimentary about the level of engagement that there had been by the Welsh Government. And, in fact, even in the auditor general's report, I did detect that they said there had been consistent messaging from the Welsh Government. So, I think, on that score, there's been a huge amount of engagement, and we've worked very well with the sector. There's been a raft of consultations, there have been guidance workshops, we've spoken at conferences—I'm using the royal 'we' here; it's my colleagues who have been speaking at conferences—and there have been circulars, every form of engagement that you could probably think of. So, we need to keep that up, as we move forward, but I think there's been very good engagement to date.

We're just very conscious that we can't do what we need to do in this space without engaging with local government colleagues. So, the process that Tracey has explained of engaging with local government, throughout the development of a response to the Hackitt recommendations, that's been a characteristic of the way we've gone about that task. But, more recently, in responding to the important recommendations contained in the auditor general's report, we've established a group with Welsh Local Government Association and LABC colleagues. The latest meeting of that group was just last Monday, as it happens. But we're just acutely aware that, unless we are engaging effectively with local authority colleagues as we take forward this really important agenda, we're not going to manage to communicate what the change is all about and we're not going to address the important challenges that the report highlights we face in relation to staffing and technical expertise, which is a challenge for us and for local authorities across Wales. So, that engagement is central to responding to these important recommendations.

Okay. Thank you. What is the Welsh Government's position regarding the view that the detail on phase 2 of the changes is currently lacking, and how does it intend to address that in a timely manner?

Again, I think we're aware that people do want to know more about phase 2—that's absolutely understandable—but we have phased it for a reason, so as not to overwhelm the sector with the scale of change that is coming. But I can understand why people are keenly aware to know what's coming. And they may have a bit of unease, I suppose, about what is coming, and that's why we're trying to make sure that, as John says, we're communicating as openly as we can. But, as I say, as we move into phase 2, we will set out the arrangements, the proposals, and there will be, as we've shown in phase 1, extensive consultation and engagement on those with the sector. So, as I say, I can appreciate the desire to know more, because you know phase 2 is coming and you want to know what it is, but we're very keen that we concentrate on phase 1, get that implemented, and then we will move to phase 2.


Can you give any rough timelines, indicative timelines, on when you'd expect detail to become more available?

So, our end—. Oh, John, do you want to come in? Neil, sorry, you go.

Obviously, the immediate priority is getting the registration process under way and monitoring that and making sure that, from April, we have a workforce to undertake those building control functions. So, that's the immediate priority. But, alongside that, we are starting to work out and develop further the legislation and the guidance that goes with phase 2. Some key aspects of phase 2 are already known. So, for example, the definition of high-risk building is already known. I think we're starting to build in that way now, but the absolute priority has got to be, at the start of April, making sure we have that workforce in place.

We've had some pushback from local authority colleagues that we're going too fast, and yet we are deliberately phasing the approach because we recognise that the challenge of getting building control colleagues all registered by April is quite a significant challenge for every individual local authority. And there have been suggestions that that date should be put back. We are confident that we can deliver by that date, but I think that's part of the larger picture here. This is quite a significant set of changes, and we think it's sensible to spread those changes over a two-year period, rather than expecting everything to be achieved by April, which is not that many weeks away.

Okay. Thank you. What is the Welsh Government's response to the auditor general's recommendation for councils to develop local action plans? And if you are supportive of that, do you intend to follow up on implementation to ensure that councils are adequately prepared?

It's essential that local authorities are adequately prepared. I think we do support the auditor general's proposal for local action plans. Most local authorities will have something in place, but it won't be what the auditor general was recommending. So, all local authorities will know the risks within their area. They'll also know their resourcing. But whether or not that's all brought together into an overall plan, I'm not so sure. So, that's something that we would encourage. As I say, I think the working group that John referred to, with the WLGA and with the LABC—. Sorry, there are an awful lot of acronyms, Chair, I am sorry. I think the WLGA we all know—the Welsh Local Government Association. And LABC, obviously, were here last week—Local Authority Building Control. But please do stop us if we go into more acronyms on this. So, I think the working group, with the Welsh Local Government Association and with the Local Authority Building Control organisation, that's one of the key things that they'll be looking at, and providing some guidance and some support along those lines. So, we are supportive.

We didn't think it would be fair to simply leave individual local authorities to develop action plans in isolation. This is another recognition of the scale of change that's being introduced here. So, an important objective for the WLGA working group is to support the work that's happening at individual local authority level, and to make sure that, where it makes sense for authorities to be sharing good practice—and the LABC contribution, equally, injects good practice from across the rest of the UK—that seemed to us to be a better approach than simply leaving individual local authorities to work it out themselves, even though, ultimately, they are the people responsible for delivering these key local services on the ground.

You indicate, obviously, that you will be supportive, but how will you be following up on the implementation itself?

Well, that's going to be an essential element of moving into phase 2. We are acting, as I would describe, in supportive mode of local authority colleagues at the moment. And whilst that support will continue, an essential element of the phase 2 proposals is that we begin to establish quality monitoring arrangements that will take this work into a different phase.


Okay, thank you. What, if any, dialogue has the Welsh Government had with LABC—Local Authority Building Control—concerning plans for a summit event with councils and any input it could provide to support that event?

Again, I did hear them reference that, and it's something that's being discussed at the working group. We'd be keen to have a summit. It always sounds very grand, a summit, doesn't it, but it is essentially to bring together local authority leadership with other key stakeholders to engage, to raise the profile of these issues, and to look at a number of the different areas recommended by the auditor general. So, that's something we're keen to do. I think we need to do some work internally to think about when and to think about ministerial engagement on that. So, yes, Chair, we're supportive of that and we'd like to see that happen.

Chair, the thinking behind the summit was to raise the profile surrounding this service delivery area. We think the auditor general's report was an important step in raising awareness of the scale of challenges we face in this area. We are conscious that local authorities face challenges in all sorts of other areas of their business. The summit was a proposal designed, even if it's just in the short term, to generate a little bit more interest in the technical aspect of local authority service delivery, given that, in a post-Grenfell environment, that seemed to us to be worth attempting.

Okay. Thank you. In your introductory comments, you made some reference to workforce. If I can expand on that, what action has the Welsh Government taken to address workforce risks—and you indicated some of them—in the sector, and how does it intend to work with partners to develop a clear workforce plan?

Thanks, Chair. I think it's a significant issue and it was a big part of the auditor general's report. In a sense, that wasn't news to us. The sector has an ageing workforce and, as the report pointed out, not diverse. Actually, it really reminded me, Chair, of when I was here with you when we talked about town-centre regeneration. We were talking about town planners, with many similar issues there in a sector that doesn't seem to be as attractive for younger people to want to come into. So, I think there's quite a lot to do to raise the profile of the attractiveness of the sector, because it does have an awful lot of interest.

And I think our research has shown that the things that people value most about working in the sector are that you're not stuck behind a desk, you're out on site, you're meeting a wide variety of people, you're engaged and actually helping your local community, and improving the environment in which you live. So, there are a lot of positives to work in the sector, but I think there's a job to do to raise the profile of that, and that's a job for the sector as a whole not just for the Welsh Government. 

But in terms of specific actions, they're always in partnership; this isn't a Welsh Government-only agenda—in fact, it's not a Wales-only agenda, to be honest. So, I think, with the working group with the Welsh Local Government Association and with LABC, we've been looking at these longer term issues, and the LABC are preparing an options paper at the moment to look at what can be done on some of these workforce challenges. But some of them, Chair, are long-standing and will take some time to turn around.

When we received the auditor general's report last summer, I remember thinking that we would need to have to explain to groups like you how difficult it is to recruit specialist staff in this area of business. That’s certainly the experience that Neil and I faced in trying to appoint the head of our technical team. However, during the intervening period and when we’ve been working with LABC, LABC are telling us that they’re managing to attract significant numbers of young people into the profession through the recruitment exercise that they’ve launched in England and Wales. So, they’ve managed to turn the ship around. I think we need to find out more about what is it about the LABC approach that has turned this cinderella service into what they say is an attractive career option for young people. I can’t help thinking that there may be reasons why this might become a more attractive area. This is not the only area where we face difficulties in recruitment, but I think we do need to take seriously the evidence we’re getting from LABC that sometimes it is possible to sell these careers. They seem to have done that. How can we build on their success?


Sorry, Chair, I know you don't want us to be having a conversation with ourselves, because you want to ask us the questions, but I think part of that is the way that it has all been packaged together by LABC. So, they’ve got a traineeship with an accredited qualification at the end of it. You’re paid during it, and the starting salary is reasonably competitive, and there’s a job at the end of it. So, I think it’s the bringing together of all of those things that has maybe made the difference for LABC.

And it's difficult for individual local authorities to perhaps offer that package of benefits. 

Just one final point, and I think it will also tie up here, potentially, to the way that we're going to be regulating the profession. Obviously, it’s going to be seen as more of a profession with a set of regulations around it and a requirement to move up through that. In some ways, I think what we’re doing by recognising and requiring professional competence, essentially, is that that will help to attract people—they will see how they fit within that.

And in terms of working with partners, obviously, you're looking primarily at the short and medium-term pressures, but longer term, given the ageing profile of the profession you referred to, what, if any, engagement with training qualification providers, both in terms of young entrants and also people who might retrain in their careers for a new role—?

That's right, and I think one of the things that's on my mind with the registration and competence is that that will be—. I don’t want to put this in a negative way, because I’m very supportive of it, but it could be seen by others as a barrier to entry to come in, that you have to have this competence and registration. But that is what we want. That is part of the change that needs to come post Grenfell, and part of Hackitt. So, I think the important thing for us is to make sure that that training and the ability to develop those competences is easily accessible and is easy to understand for people, on how to get into the sector, what the steps are they need to take and where they can get the training for that.

We’ve had some engagement last year with our apprenticeship colleagues in the Welsh Government, and we have had discussions with education colleagues. I think there’s a lot more for us to do there, to be honest. I think we could provide more focus. Part of that, Chair, I think is, as I said at the start, we’ve had some resourcing issues, so we’ve had to prioritise work, and we’ve been really focused on the registration work that we’ve been doing. But I think the work with education colleagues is going to be, as we’ve just said, actually, very, very important, going forward, so that there are those appropriate qualifications. So, LABC already do have accredited training to, I think, levels 3 to 6, and that’s available. And they also do have a programme of continuous professional development, too. So, there is provision out there, but there is much more that I think that we can do. John, you’re nodding.

LABC seem to have established a particularly productive relationship with, I think, Wolverhampton FE college in England, and we've benefited from the work that they've done. But if we're going to make sense of this in a Welsh context, we need to establish, I would suggest, something similar with one or more Welsh institutions so that we're able to ensure we've got local supply chains and people coming through into this area of business. It's not the only area of business we'd be keen to see young people being recruited into, but that, I think, will be an important element of where we go next on this.


Okay. Thank you. What, if any, collection of workforce data has the Welsh Government begun in line with its response to the auditor general's recommendation, and, if this is ongoing, when is this likely to be completed? 

Thanks, Chair. The data collection is ongoing. I think the timetable for the most systematic collection of data is next year, but we are collecting data all the time. We're collecting data from the registration process that we have under way already. So, that's a new data source for us to understand the sector.

We also collected a significant amount of data as part of our research work in preparation for the Welsh building safety Bill, which is coming. We commissioned research to provide us with a baseline on which to inform our policy development. Actually, the themes from that, I'm sure Audit Wales would be interested to know, are very consistent with the findings from the auditor general's report, and we published that research in November of last year. So, we're constantly building our own data, information and intelligence about the sector, and that's been coming from various sources. But the commitment in our response to the auditor general's recommendations is for next year, Chair—April next year.

So, just to clarify, in terms of policy development to date, as opposed to the future, you held workforce information, as you've indicated, or was there any other workforce information that you had been relying upon and which you held?

We weren't sitting on a databank of workforce data for the policy development to date. I think that would be a misrepresention for me to suggest that we were. We did, of course, have good intelligence about the sector. That came through the work of our building safety expert group, through the road map, through the developments of the White Paper and the input and consultations that we had from there, and from the information that we have just more generally through local authorities. So, that has informed phase 1. But phase 1, I suppose—I wouldn't exactly call it—. A lot changed for the sector, but it's not policy reform. It's more a tightening of things—a tightening of competencies, a tightening of certification, registration. It's phase 2 that is more of the reform agenda, and I feel that our data is much better, and we have collected much more data for that future policy-making phase. 

Okay. To expand on this further, what, if any, consideration has the Welsh Government given to the impact of its changes on the workforce and its ability to respond, and what consideration has it given to potential mitigations, such as grandfather rights?

It's major change, Chair, for the sector. We've got a lot of sympathy for people working in the sector, but that major change is needed—that's what was recommended. I can understand, if you're a very experienced, long-standing professional, to suddenly be asked to demonstrate your competence, to register and to be able to evidence your competence could be a bit demoralising, really, for people. We are aware that this hasn't been universally welcomed, this registration and this assessing-the-competence assessment.

From our data that we've got so far, though, about 75 per cent of inspectors have started the registration process, so that is really encouraging for us. Obviously, what our eye is on is how many have completed it by 1 April. We've got a very close watching brief on that at the moment, because there is a risk that if there aren't sufficient inspectors registered by 1 April, then there would be insufficient personnel to conduct the really important work that's under way right across Wales. So, we're keeping a watching brief on it. If necessary, we would consider some form of transitional arrangements, maybe a smoother pathway, slightly elongated, but that's not the plan at the moment. For anybody in the building control profession who may view this evidence session, the plan is still for 1 April, but, as I say, we keep a watching brief and a watching brief on the risks associated with it over time.

Thanks. I had to go through this in my previous profession. But we heard in evidence last week that there is a sensitivity, as you indicate, particularly amongst older, more experienced people, and, given the age profile that you acknowledged, are you considering the possibility, as indicated, that the limited workforce might diminish even further if some of those people approaching retirement choose to retire now?


We have done some sort of sensing out there, because it's not a huge community, actually, Chair, not if you think about the scale of it, say, compared to England. And we do know that there are a small number of people who are coming towards the end of their career, where their retirement may have been in the next couple of years, and I think for them that—. It's for each individual to take their own decision, but there will be individuals there who will decide that it's not for them and they're not going to put themselves through that process and maybe retire slightly earlier than they thought. But those numbers are very small; they're in single figures, Chair. And not without consequence, because what I should emphasise is that they are predominately what are called class 3 inspectors, and that is a very senior inspector and those skills are in short supply. So, I don't think we would give anybody a kind of—what would you call it—pass to not register, because we need to have everybody up to a single system of registration that is really, really clear as part of the new safety regime, but we may provide a smoother glide path into that, if that makes sense.

I'm hugely, hugely sympathetic to you, Chair. I would not want to resit my economics exams right now, from when I started out in my career. So, we do understand their concerns.

If I could put some data around that just to illustrate the point, we're in regular contact and the last data collection was in mid December. We've got something like 132 building inspectors across Wales, and 124 of those have engaged with the registration system at various stages going through that process. We understand that there are eight individuals who are contemplating leaving. They are generally close to retirement, and what we are seeing is that they're bringing forward, perhaps, their retirement plans, but we're going to repeat the exercise with increasing frequency as we move up towards April. So, we do have some quite robust data on this.

Okay. Moving briskly forward—the clock is ticking and colleagues wish to raise their points—Local Authority Building Control told us that eight trainees will not be enough. What consideration has the Welsh Government therefore given to whether there is an opportunity to support more, and how, if at all, has it been working with education colleagues to deliver appropriate building control qualifications? And I appreciate, to a point, that you've answered the latter part earlier.

Yes. Maybe I'll focus on the sufficiency of eight, because it is a small number, but it is a positive start, Chair. So, essentially, we've funded four, but we've half funded eight, technically. That's how that has worked. And that's a very small start to things, I think.

We've described why we think this process works and why it's attractive—the package that is provided there—but it does require funding and I suppose that would be a decision for Ministers to decide on the priority and how they want to allocate their budget. And I think we also want to look at the retention of those colleagues in the building control sector. But, as I say, we're very happy to have supported the eight trainees that we've had so far. I think we would be open to supporting some in the future, but that will come down to budget availability and budget prioritisation.

Okay. Thank you. You've already made some reference to the barriers that exist to more people entering public sector building control and you referred to a programme run by LABC to help overcome this. But what, if anything, further do you see as the main barriers and what, if anything, further are you doing to help the sector overcome those?

I think we've probably covered quite a lot of those barriers, Chair, so I don't want to really repeat myself there. The entry requirements coming into the sector, people may see those as being too high, so we want to make sure that—. We don't want to lower those, but we do want to make sure that people can understand how they train to the right standard—that that's available, that it's accessible to them.

I think public sector pay is probably in the mix there somewhere. Local authorities, like most public sector bodies, have had pay pressures and whether or not those jobs are competitive with other jobs in other sectors, maybe. And I just think the image of the career was rightly under the microscope, post Grenfell, and I think, notwithstanding what we've just said about the trainees coming in, there's a job to do to raise professional pride again in that sector and make people want to come and work in it.


Thank you. In a number of areas where Welsh Government provides support for students or trainees, it requires or incentivises them to remain in the public sector once trained, at least for a period. What consideration, if any, have you given to such a requirement or incentivisation for these roles?

Yes. That's a good point, really. We often find that there are some organisations that seem to train up for the whole sector, and I suppose, is that a bad thing? I think, as long as people stay in the building control sector, be they in the local authority or the private sector, the idea is that we need to improve the capacity and capability of the whole sector. So, for the LABC trainees, if they leave, they have to repay their fees, their learning fees, but I don't think there's been a particular issue on that so far. I think, from listening to LABC at their evidence session two weeks ago, I think only one trainee had gone to a private sector company, but the others were there and some had been placed in permanent roles in local authorities. So, we haven't got any golden handcuffs that we can tie to people, but I think the incentive not to have to repay their fees is quite a strong one, isn't it? 

I think, as well, what we tend to find is that local authorities, the public sector, are very good in terms of providing trainee opportunities, and obviously the LABC work is enhancing that. It tends to be when people get to middle management, or the next sort of move, and it's whether there's that career structure in place within local government that allows that to happen, or whether they then move into the private sector for what is greater reward. So, there is, I think, something about how we can create those career pathways within local government, so that we retain people. It is quite challenging at the moment.

Okay. Thank you. I'd better move on, so can I bring in, please, Mike Hedges?

Diolch, Cadeirydd. This, really, follows on from where you've just stopped. What were the conclusions of the Welsh Government's previous review of the mixed market and could further details be provided to the committee?

I didn't quite catch the second half of that question. I do apologise. The findings of the review of the—?

The mixed market, referred to in response to the Auditor General for Wales's recommendations, and could further details be provided to the committee? 

I do apologise—sorry. So, the previous review, I'm afraid it might have been before my time. Neil and John, are you able to provide some information to Mr Hedges on this?

Yes. I was looking at that part of our response to the committee as well. I don't think that we intended to suggest that there'd been some major review of that question. I think what was intended was to refer to the work we did as part of developing our response to the Hackitt recommendations, to consider all sorts of questions, including the issue of the mixed market in this space. So, there wasn't a great, huge fundamental exercise conducted called 'a review', but we did review this question as part of many questions we looked at. So, I hope that wasn't a misleading part to our response. We've been looking at this question all along, and we're still having to contemplate the strengths and weaknesses of the current arrangements, but at the moment, we are supportive of the mixed market in this area. And we can explain some more about that if that would be helpful.

Can I go on from that? I would prefer it to be all done by local government building control, but I know that that is not the view of the Welsh Government civil service or the Welsh Government. But the question I've got is: how do you stop one organisation doing building control becoming almost completely dependent on one company, and the pressure, then, they would come under to make decisions that may not be the best in the public interest? If one company has more than 40 per cent of its income coming in from one organisation, surely that puts pressure on it.


I think we do face important questions in relation to how we regulate this market, as it were. Neil may want to say a bit more about this. Our view is that, at the moment, the contribution that Approved Inspectors Ltd is making in this space is a critical contribution, and some sudden shift to a world where we were entirely dependent on local authority building inspectors would be just difficult in order to sustain services, because they make such a crucial contribution. But, equally, as Mr Hedges points out, there are important questions around the relationship between commercial organisations and local authorities that need to be thought about in this space. It's only local authorities that can take enforcement action, so this is a particular kind of relationship. But, Neil, what are your reflections on this?

So, I think, one of the important things to remember is one of the fundamental principles of the changes we're introducing is actually saying, for the higher risk buildings, the only option is the local authority building control department. We've made that clear and conscious decision on the basis of what Hackitt told us. John's right. We've looked at this issue a number of times, although, personally, I wouldn't term it as a formal review. You've got to remember we've had building regulations in Wales now since about 2012, and a lot of the procedural background to the building regulations is based in England or in England and Wales legislation. Ministers have consistently taken the view that the most important thing, when it comes to building regulations in Wales, is the policy, in effect. What do we say about energy efficiency? And that's where the resource has been placed, not so much in terms of looking at the structure of the process until now. 

So, that's where we've got to. I know that there have been a few touch points when we have looked at a very high level about whether this approach is correct, and, obviously, there is the commitment that we've given to undertake and enact further detailed analysis next year to actually look at the issues again. But as we stand today, there is absolutely no way that local authority building control could cope with all of the workload if we were to switch off the private sector support that's out there.

I don't want to debate that with you, but if work ceased to be available in the private sector, many of those people could work in the public sector. But we're not going to get very far with that. You talk about high-risk buildings. Were buildings above three storeys always high risk, or have they only become high risk since Grenfell?

The important change post Grenfell was the new definition of high-risk buildings, and the requirement, from next year onwards, that only local authorities would be allowed to inspect that category of buildings. We don't have the same scale that England has in terms of the challenge that represents, but I think it is worth emphasising that this is just the beginnings of the process, and Neil and I are both emphasising that this is our response at the moment. Let's see what the response from local authorities is to the important new responsibilities we're placing on their shoulders to maintain responsibility for these high-risk buildings. That's going to be an important challenge for the whole sector.

Thank you for that answer. Can I just ask the same question again: pre Grenfell, were all buildings above three storeys considered to be high risk, or have they only come onto the high-risk register since Grenfell?

So, the only thing that defines now a high-risk building is the regulations that we brought in last November and came into force on 24 January. In the Welsh context, a high-risk building is 18m or more or consisting of seven storeys with one residential unit. It also covers a hospital, a care home or a children's home where people potentially stay overnight.

Just to put this into context: across the whole of Wales, we have 171 high-risk buildings, we believe. We only see, on a good year, four to six built—I suspect at the moment it's considerably less than that—and we only see one major change. So, responsibility for high-risk buildings, I'd argue, is going to full disproportionately on the large urban authorities. We can all look around us here and see higher risk buildings being constructed, or that have been constructed. For large parts of Wales, there are unlikely to be high-risk buildings. That then leads to the question about how does local government address that issue. How do they ensure that they have coverage for those areas where you may not see a high-risk building very frequently? Is it correct that you'd have those skills in-house, or would you borrow those from a neighbouring authority? So, we just need to be, I think, conscious of the context in terms of how many we have. I think there's something like—it's in the tens of thousands across the border in England; it's a much bigger issue.


Thank you for that answer. I take it they were not high risk pre Grenfell, because that question has been asked twice now, and you've not—

Sorry, could we come back, Mr Hedges? So, I think there wasn't a definition of a high-risk building. So, to provide a literal answer to Mr Hedges, they were not designated, they were not defined as high-risk buildings, because there was no such designation, Mr Hedges, if that helps.

That helps very much; thank you. Has the Welsh Government received the UK Government's research, referred to in its response to the auditor general's recommendation on the mixed market? If so, how is it now being used to inform the next steps?

So, I think the UK Government research is probably the research on fire safety, I think.

I don't think—. Have we had that, Neil?

No, we haven't had that yet, Mr Hedges, but when we do, it'll be an important part of the overall SWOT analysis—the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis—that we've undertaken, so we'll wait to receive that.

Thank you very much. What's the Welsh Government's view on why few enforcement actions are referred to councils from the private sector, and does it intend to do anything about it?

So, I think that's a very interesting question, that, on enforcement. The Hackitt report was—. One of the key concerns, I think, of the Hackitt report was that they had some serious questions about the private sector and enforcement, in the sense of: was the private sector disincentivised to raise enforcement issues for fear of losing business? So, I think that goes back to your earlier question, Mr Hedges, about motivations. But also, would the private sector hold back in order to attract business by the promise of fewer interventions, a minimalist approach?

So, I think for us, phase 2 of our work is going to be really, really important in that regard, because that's where we're going to have the concept of the duty holder. So, people will become duty holders, and there will be individual accountability. So, if you're public sector or private sector, you will be a duty holder, and therefore, if something goes wrong, regardless of which sector you are in, you are the accountable person for that, and I think that will be a real game changer, really, in terms of that. Would you agree, colleagues?

I think the other thing that we will have, once phase 2 has been introduced, is data, and that will generate a different sort of discussion, I suspect, around differences between authorities and whether there are patterns that might lead to the sort of concerns that Mr Hedges has identified. So, I think there will be a different discussion about these issues once we've introduced the key performance indicators that are part of the phase 2 proposals.

Thank you. Moving on to local authorities working together, the Scottish hub model, do you see advantages to either of those? You have talked about collaboration between local authorities, and you've also said about Swansea and Cardiff having a greater proportion of tall buildings. We also know that university towns and cities tend to have more high-rise buildings around students. In fact, you only have to go through the centre of Swansea to see the growth in high-rise student accommodation. So, would there be any advantage, do you think, of using the Scottish hub model, or local authorities specialising in this, like Swansea and Cardiff, and selling the services to neighbouring authorities that may have very few high-rise buildings?


I think there's potentially a lot to like out of that model for collaboration. That's definitely something that we are interested in seeing local authorities pursue further, for all of the reasons that you've outlined there, in terms of being able to pool resource, to develop expertise, which can be deployed, as you say, to those areas where they need it most. It also increases the spending power of local authorities and they can collaborate on training and development. So, I think there's an awful lot to like from a collaborative model, and, as part of the working group, the LABC are doing an options paper that is looking at the models for collaboration and that sort of pooling of resources, working together. Because I think we all want to improve the resilience of the sector so that it's able to do the job that it needs to do going forward. But then that would be a matter for discussion, obviously, with local government from there.

Thank you. Moving on to financial management, what is the Welsh Government’s response to the finding that councils appear not to be applying the Building (Local Authority Charges) Regulations 2010 as intended?

So, the financial aspect was a key part of the auditor general's work, and I think the auditor general couldn't have been clearer really in terms of the need for local authorities to have good financial management and for them to—. The recommendation was for local authorities to review their financial management, and, from memory, to revise, to look at their fee structures, revision of fees, and to do annual reporting—so, more transparency there—and more financial training. So, I think the auditor general's recommendations in that regard were reasonable, I think, would be our response to that.

Thank you. What are the consequences of failing to apply the regulations as intended?

Again, that's an interesting question. So, the consequences for local authorities—. So, local authorities are duty bound to follow proper procedures and proper practices. And those proper practices and procedures are set out in the CIPFA, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, guidance. And there's a specific document for local government. So, they are duty bound to follow that guidance.

I think, in terms of the building regulations requirements, that is slightly separate CIPFA guidance, and I think that there isn't a legal requirement for them to adhere to that. Mr Hedges, I'm on the edge of my knowledge here, but I don't think there is a legal requirement for them to do it, and, certainly, in the regulations themselves, there is no penalty in there. But I think, if we take ourselves away from the letter of the law and back to maybe the principle of it, the regulations for building controls were set out in that way for a reason—for the costs to be reasonable and for any surplus money to be used to further develop the sector. So, I think that, if we come back to the principle rather than the letter, then that's probably a better place for us to look rather than get into the background of all of the regulations. 

Thank you very much and, if you'd like to send us a note, I'm sure the Chair, like myself, would be quite keen to have any clarification you'd need to bring in on that.

And the last question I've got: you've talked about building control and you've talked about them perhaps making a profit and the money having to go back into building control services. I know how much pressure local authorities are under in social care, for example. How much profit do local authorities—or surplus do local authorities—make from building control services?


Sorry, go on. Sorry. I do beg your pardon.

I don't expect you to be able to answer that now, but a note on that would be quite useful.

Yes. So, I don't know, and, actually, the auditor general's report actually indicated that it was quite a mixed picture, because some authorities were undercharging for work, which, again, I think, in some ways is understandable, with—. We had a long period of low inflation, then we had obviously a hike of high inflation, so, you know, their charges could be adrift from the costs, but it probably is due a fee review. But I think, going back to those regulations, I think it's—. We will happily provide a note of our understanding of those regulations, but just to make the point that local authorities are democratic, accountable bodies; they are accountable for their financial management. The Welsh Government does not have a role in the preparing of local government accounts; the Welsh Government does not have a role in the checking of those accounts. Those accounts are subject to external audit. And so I think, if there were failings there, we would expect that to be picked up in the audit process of individual authorities and raised with those local authorities. And it's only if, I think, that it was something in extreme, that the Welsh Government would step in on a financial practices issue. So, we may need to take a view from audit colleagues, really, on that, to help the committee.

Can I—? It might be helpful to add, Mr Hedges, that—. You'll understand that we take a slightly partial approach on this issue because we have a particular interest in effective delivery of building control services. We recognise that local authorities have got a much wider range of important responsibilities, including financial responsibilities, that they have to manage, of which this is but one, but it does seem to us that the auditor general's report suggests that it may be time, that it probably is time, for us to take a fresh look at this matter. The auditor general's report suggested that there may be a lack of understanding out there about these regulations, which were passed prior to the time when Wales became responsible for building regulations. So, in the work that we've been doing with the WLGA, we are now making arrangements to engage with local authority treasurers on this aspect of the set of building control issues that we're dealing with at the moment, and—not that we've got any view as to what the right answer is, but given how detailed and quite technical the regulations are, given what's happened over the last 14 years since those regulations were introduced—it's probably time to take a fresh look at do we have a shared understanding of how best we can use the fact that this is a fee-generating service to support this really important element of local authority responsibilities.

I'm so sorry, could I just add two additional points? I do beg your pardon for adding more in here, but I just—. It was to John's point about the need to look at these afresh. Obviously, since then, we've had the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021, which has come into place, which is very much an improvement agenda for local authorities, so it's probably worth reflecting on them in that light. Sorry, John, it's just come into my head.

But also I did want to emphasise that the auditor general was actually quite clear that it was only anecdotal evidence about surpluses being repurposed, and, actually, the auditor general had not found or had not seen that in practice or found that themselves. So, I think just to make sure that we remind ourselves that it was anecdotal. I'm not saying it isn't happening, but that, I think, was the wording that they used in their report.

Jest ar y pwynt olaf yna, dwi'n ceisio cofio, ac efallai gall cyd-Aelodau neu'r clercod gadarnhau, ond mi oedd yr LABC yn cadarnhau mai eu hargraff nhw oedd bod gwargedion yn cael eu defnyddio i bwrpasau ehangach, onid oedden nhw?

Just on that final point, I'm trying to remember, and perhaps fellow Members or the clerks can confirm, but the LABC confirmed that their impression was that surpluses were being used for broader purposes, didn't they?


Eu hargraff nhw.

Their impression.

Profiad, gan eu bod nhw'n gweithio yn y maes. Hynny yw, gan eu bod nhw'n arbenigwyr, ydy hwnna efallai yn fwy na jest anecdotaidd?

Experience, as they are working in the field. Because they're experts, is that perhaps more than just anecdotal evidence?

Yes, I think that's a fair point. We don't have that evidence ourselves to be able to comment on that. It was making me reflect, actually, whilst we were talking. I do recall the Auditor General for Wales doing a review a good few years ago about fees and charges in local authorities—I'm looking across the room here to Matthew on that—because obviously local authorities get fees and charges from a range of different things: building control is one, but care costs and planning costs et cetera. I don't remember, from memory, whether there were any views or recommendations about surpluses and costs in that. Sorry, I'm just thinking aloud here that that's something we may want to return to and have a look at. Thank you.

Dwi am droi at ddau bwnc, sef monitro perfformiad a rheolaeth risg. So, yn dechrau gyda'r un cyntaf, mi wnaethoch chi gynhyrchu drafft o'r fframwaith perfformiad cenedlaethol newydd yn gynharach y llynedd. Roedd y cynllun terfynol i fod i gael ei gyhoeddi mis diwethaf. Ydy hynny wedi digwydd?

I'm going to turn to two different subjects, which are performance monitoring and risk management. So, to start with the first one, you produced a draft of the national performance framework earlier last year. The final plan was supposed to be published last month. Has that happened?

Can I give you a civil service answer to that, which is 'yes and no'? The 'yes and no' is because, actually, the performance framework is in parts. So, a part is the operational standards rules, part is the key performance indicators, and then the last part is how we bring all of that together for oversight and monitoring. So, the operational standards rules—OSRs, as we call them—have been published. The key performance indicators have been published. We're clear on how we're going to have monitoring and oversight of the private sector inspectors. The bit that's my 'no' of my 'yes and no' answer is that we're still working through the how we will monitor and have oversight of the local authority performance part of the performance framework. So, I'd say 80 per cent there. Would that be about right, would you say? Yes.

Ond jest i gymhlethu'r ateb ychydig ymhellach, mae 20 mas o'r 22 awdurdod lleol yng Nghymru wedi mabwysiadu system LABC o fesur perfformiad yn barod. Wrth inni gyflwyno adran 2 o'r newidiadau, un o'r cwestiynau tricky rŷn ni'n gorfod ei ystyried yw beth yw'r perthynas rhwng y system maen nhw wedi ei mabwysiadu yn barod a'r system sydd gyda ni mewn golwg, sydd ar fin cael ei chyflwyno. Achos y peth olaf rŷn ni eisiau ei wneud yw ychwanegu at y cymhlethdod yn y byd yma. Ond dyna ran o'r gwaith rŷn ni'n gorfod ei wynebu dros yr wythnosau nesaf.

Just to complicate the answer a little further, 20 out of the 22 local authorities in Wales have adopted the LABC system of performance measurement already. As we roll out section 2 of the changes, one of the tricky questions that we have to consider is what is the relationship between the system that they have already adopted and the system that we have in view, which is about to be rolled out. Because the last thing we want to do is add to the complications in this world. But that's part of the work that we have to face over the coming weeks.

Ydych chi felly yn ceisio, i'r graddau mwyaf sydd yn bosib, alinio'r ddau?

Are you therefore trying, to the best of your ability, to align both of those things?

Os yw hynny'n bosib.

Where possible, yes.

I think they're quite complementary, though, John, because the LABC quality management system is about having the underpinning systems in place, the underpinning processes, and that is the foundation, really, for how you are then collecting your key performance indicators, which is the bit that we're working on. So, I think they're complementary parts of the overall framework, although I suspect there will need to be a little bit of adjustment to bring the two things completely into alignment. But they are complementary.

Heb fynd i mewn i'r holl fanylion o dan y gwahanol adrannau neu is-adrannau rŷch chi wedi cyfeirio atyn nhw yn barod—rhai ohonyn nhw wedi'u cyhoeddi, ac un sydd ar ôl i'w orffen—ydych chi'n gallu rhoi y penawdau i ni o ran prif nodweddion allweddol y fframwaith y byddech chi'n hoffi eu rhannu gyda ni?

Without going into all the details in terms of the parts or sub-parts that you've already referred to—some have already been published and one is still to be finished—could you give us the headlines just in terms of the main principles of the framework that you'd like to share with us?


Of course. I won't give you a long list of all the different key performance indicators and different rules, but there are probably three main purposes for the framework. One is about the efficiency and effectiveness—being able to judge how efficient and how effective the building control body is. The second part is how well a resource is targeted, and the third part is how well is the building control body delivering on its purpose, so doing the function it was set up to do. And then, underneath those kind of three key purposes, I think, are about six different categories of key performance indicators, and they're quite wide ranging. So, they're not just about the application process, but they include issues like enforcement, and also knowledge and expertise available, so much more wide-ranging than previously. 

O ran y drafft gwnaethoch chi ymgynghori ynglŷn ag e, beth oedd y prif newidiadau o'r drafft i'r fersiwn terfynol ar sail yr ymatebion roeddech chi wedi'u cael?

In terms of the draft and your consultation on this, what were the main changes from the draft to the final version in terms of the consultation responses that you received?

I think I'd have to turn to Neil more on that detail, if that's okay. 

I haven't got those details; I'll have to write to you. On the website, we have obviously set out our response to the consultation, so that will contain that information.

We'll definitely provide that, but I can tell you that it was welcomed. 

Obviously, it's more work for people, so it wasn't universally welcomed, but I think people thought that it was a coherent framework, and that it was certainly covering a much wider base than just 'how many, how fast'. 

There were concerns about whether you've got quality indicators in there as well. There are some quality indicators in terms of process. Obviously, the main quality aspect of building control is, actually, how people assess the plans, and it's very hard to measure that through any KPI process. So, ensuring that, obviously, buildings are compliant with building regulations is the main quality measure. There are quality measures in there, but it is about process, so, for example, how many complaints you get and how quickly they're resolved. But that's not quite the same as a full quality assessment of a building regulations approval process. 

Yn ogystal â'r dangosyddion sydd yn ymwneud â phroses—cyflymder y gwasanaeth ac yn y blaen—ydych chi wedi ceisio balansio'r dangosyddion, y KPIs, o ran canlyniadau, hynny yw diogelwch adeiladau, fel rhan o'r fframwaith?

As well as the indicators relating to process—the speed of the service et cetera—have you tried to balance those KPIs in terms of the results, insofar as building safety, as part of the framework?

Yes, definitely. There are things like enforcements, preventions, the knowledge, the expertise in the sector, the risk management. It is really quite wide ranging. When we do write, Neil, with the feedback from the consultation, we should append the range of KPIs that's behind it. I think you will be, hopefully, satisfied that we are now capturing a range of data that will enable better performance management, and, therefore, better governance. And that will allow us, and building control bodies, to better assess how well they're fulfilling their functions, but also have data to learn from to improve in the future. So, we're confident on that. 

Dwi'n meddwl ei bod yn werth tanlinellu bod yr her o fynd ar ôl yr elfennau hynny o'r system archwilio yn mynd i fod ychydig yn fwy cymhleth ar gyfer yr adeiladau cymhleth nag ydyn nhw ar gyfer y gwaith bob dydd sy'n cael ei ddelifro yn y maes yma. A dwi'n meddwl bod yna fwy o waith i'w wneud er mwyn sefydlu sut rŷn ni'n sicrhau bod y cwestiynau o safon yn cael eu hystyried mewn ffordd briodol ar gyfer yr adeiladau cymhleth. Dyna lle mae Hackitt wedi tynnu sylw at y ffaith bod yr hen system ddim yn gweithio'n ddigonol, a dyna lle mae'r dystiolaeth yn awgrymu bod eisiau i ni ganolbwyntio. Dyna lle mae'r risg mwyaf. 

I think it's worth emphasising that the challenge of pursuing those elements of the system is going to be a little bit more complicated for the complex buildings than it is for the everyday work that's being delivered in this area. And I think that there is more work to be done in order to establish how we ensure that the questions of quality are considered in an appropriate way for the complex buildings. That's what Hackitt has drawn attention to, namely that the old system isn't adequate, and the evidence suggests we need to focus on that, because that's where the greatest risk lies. 


Gadewch inni droi at hynny, felly. Pam ŷch chi wedi dod i'r un casgliad â'r archwilydd cyffredinol—ac mae'n cael ei adleisio yn Hackitt, i raddau, onid yw hi—bod gwaith yn y maes yma, gwaith craffu cynghorau ar reoli adeiladau ac yn y blaen, yn annigonol, er gwaethaf arwyddocâd y digwyddiadau wnaeth esgor ar y Ddeddf Diogelwch Adeiladau newydd?

Let's turn to that, then. Why have you come to the same conclusion as the auditor general—and it's reflected in Hackitt, to some extent, isn't it—that work done in this field, in terms of the scrutiny of councils on the regulation of buildings et cetera, is insufficient, despite the significance of the events that led to the Building Safety Act?

I fod yn deg ar yr awdurdodau, efallai dylwn i nodi ein bod ni'n dal i fod hanner ffordd drwy’r broses o newid y system, ac, o ganlyniad, efallai taw un rheswm yw bod y cynghorau wedi bod yn aros am y newid, ac efallai eu bod nhw'n ymwybodol bod yna Ddeddf wedi cael ei phasio yn San Steffan a bod yna fwy o ddeddfwriaeth i ddod yng Nghymru, ond ei bod hi ddim wedi cael ei chyhoeddi eto. So, mae hwn yn ddarlun eithaf cymhleth i'w gyflwyno i awdurdodau lleol sy'n gorfod gofidio am bob math o wasanaethau. Ond ar ôl dweud hynny, dwi'n meddwl bod y sefyllfa nawr yn newid ac, wrth inni gyflwyno mwy o'r elfennau yma a'r system o archwilio, y gobaith yw bydd mwy o sylw’n cael ei roi a bod y diffygion hanesyddol yna yn dechrau cael eu delio â nhw. 

To be fair on the authorities, maybe I should note that we are still halfway through the process of changing the system and, as a result of that, maybe one reason is that the councils had been waiting for the change to emerge, and they may be aware that there is an Act that's been passed in Westminster and that there is more legislation to come in Wales, but it hasn't been published yet. So, this is quite a complex picture to present to local authorities who have to be concerned about a great deal of services. But having said that, I do think that the situation is changing and, as we introduce more of these elements and the audit system, the hope is that more attention will be given and that these historical deficiencies will be dealt with.

Mae yna reol clir nawr ynglŷn â’r diffiniad yma o adeiladau sydd yn awtomatig yn risg uchel. Ond o feddwl am adeiladau sydd ddim yn y categori yna’n awtomatig, ond yn cael eu hadnabod fel adeiladau risg uchel, mae yna bryder ynglŷn ag, efallai, yr anghysondeb o ran y prosesau o ran adeiladu a rhannu’r wybodaeth yna. Sut ŷch chi fel Llywodraeth ar lefel cenedlaethol yn meddu, ar hyn o bryd, ar ddarlun cenedlaethol o risgiau adeiladau sydd wedi cael eu hadnabod?

There's a clear rule, at the moment, in terms of the definition of buildings that are automatically a high risk. But in thinking about buildings that don't naturally sit in that category, and they're not identified as high-risk buildings, there is a concern, perhaps, about the inconsistency in terms of the processes, in terms of building and sharing that information. How do you as a Government on a national level currently have that image, nationally, of the risk of buildings that are identified across Wales?

Dwi'n meddwl ein bod ni'n dechrau symud i mewn i faes fy nghydweithiwr Emma fan hyn, achos mae'r dystiolaeth sydd gyda ni o beth yw sefyllfa adeiladau Cymru yn eithaf negyddol. Ers cyfnod adroddiad Judith Hackitt, mi fyddwch chi’n ymwybodol bod lot o dystiolaeth wedi dod i'r wyneb bod yna broblemau o gwmpas adeiladau yng Nghaerdydd ac Abertawe a llefydd eraill. So, mae hanes y sector yma yn awgrymu bod yna bob math o gwestiynau i'w hystyried, ond mae hynny yn ymwneud â'r hen system, nid yr adeiladau sydd wedi cael eu hadeiladu ers i'r newidiadau yma ddechrau cael eu hystyried ar ôl Grenfell. So, dwi'n meddwl ein bod ni'n dal i fod mewn cyfnod o newid.

I think we're starting to move into the area of my colleague Emma here, because the evidence that we have of the situation regarding buildings in Wales is quite negative. Since the period of the Hackitt report, you'll be aware that a lot of evidence has emerged that there are problems around buildings in Cardiff and Swansea and other places. So, the history of this sector does suggest that all kinds of questions are to be considered. However, that relates to the old system, not the buildings that have been built since the changes started to be considered after Grenfell. So, I think we're still in a period of change.

I'd agree, John, but we're very well networked into wider—. 'Wider networks' I was going to say. That doesn’t make any sense. We work very closely with wider bodies—so, things like the building advisory committee, which is UK-wide, and the industry competency bodies—and that enables us to see those sorts of across-the-industry risks at a national level, and sometimes internationally there as well. But I think that the building safety regulator will be a really important source of information for us, because they will have the overview right across the sector. Then, combined with the operational standards, the KPIs that we're asking for, these will all be really good data sources for us across all of those building control and building safety issues. They'll bring out all the common issues there, Neil, wouldn't you agree?

The other main source that we use is we have our own building regulations advisory committee in Wales, so if there are consistent issues arising, that's a good source of intelligence in terms of what's happening on the ground, where there are particular challenges with particular construction methods or particular materials. So, that can feed in to our understanding of the industry, but, importantly, also, feeds in to any changes we make to the actual building regulations themselves.


O ran eich prosesau rheoli risg o fewn ystâd y Llywodraeth ei hun, a'r sector gyhoeddus, i ba raddau mae'r drafodaeth yma a gwaith yr archwilydd ac yn y blaen wedi esgor ar newid ar sut ŷch chi yn adnabod ac yn ymateb i asesiad risg o fewn yr ystâd gyhoeddus?

In terms of your internal risk management processes within the Government estate itself, and the public sector, to what extent has this discussion and the work of the auditor general, et cetera, led to change in terms of how you identify and respond to risk assessment within the public estate?

It's an interesting question, because it has really raised it up the agenda. As you can imagine, in Government, we have a risk register in every department, we have the normal escalation processes that you would expect, and that means, then, that risks can reach a certain threshold and then they become group-wide, the red risks, amber risks, et cetera, that are looked at by the very senior team across the Welsh Government. The reason I say it's interesting is—. So, our risk rating for building safety on our risk register is amber. I know that, because I look at it regularly. In fact, we had our audit and risk assurance committee last week. So, it's amber on remediation, because just the sheer complexity of the work and supply chain issues, et cetera. It's amber on reform, because of the scale of the reform, the work that we have to do to bring the Bill forward, et cetera.

On building control, this was a risk on our horizon, and we actually did ask the auditor general to do this work. I know we always say that we welcome reports from the auditor general—and we do mean it—but we especially mean it here, because this was work that we wanted done, because of the risks that we thought were out there in the sector, and we wanted this work done. So, the work of the auditor general, in a sense, hasn't escalated that risk. In fact, actually, if anything, it's been helping as part of the mitigation of that risk, because of the traction that it's getting, the visibility that it's had. These are all things about some of the comments you were raising earlier about local authorities and are they given enough scrutiny. The work of this very report is, in a sense, helping to address some of those risks by the fact it's the auditor general who's done it, and that is a very powerful thing in and of itself.

A jest i fi ddeall yn iawn, mae'r sgôr risg, neu'r graddio, yn ambr, melyn. A yw hynny'n ymwneud â'ch dyletswyddau chi o ran diogelwch a rheolaeth adeiladau yn gyffredinol, neu a ydyw e'n ymwneud â'ch ystâd chi?

And just for me to understand this properly, the risk rating is amber. Is that to do with your responsibilities in terms of safety and the regulation of buildings in general, or is it to do with your estate?

That's to do with building safety generally, not our estate. For anybody who's listening to this and wondering what 'amber' is, we have a standard red, amber, green rating—a RAG rating—for that. So, that is for building safety generally in Wales and the work that we are leading as the Welsh Government, but not the Welsh Government's estate itself.

O ran eich ystâd chi, mae gyda chi system wahanol er mwyn adnabod yr angen. Mi oeddwn i wedi gweld, ar ddechrau'r flwyddyn, er enghraifft, bod Betsi Cadwaladr wedi dweud bod canran o'u hadeiladau nhw ddim yn ddiogel i gleifion, ac yn y blaen. Felly, mae yna ryngweithiad fan hyn: rŷch chi'n gyfrifol am y fframwaith polisi, ond hefyd rŷch chi'n meddu ar lawer iawn o adeiladau hefyd. Ydych chi'n ceisio alinio, felly, yr asesiad, y fframwaith polisi, ar gyfer asesiad risg yn gyffredinol, ar gyfer pob adeilad, gyda'r ffordd rŷch chi'n asesu'r risg o ran eich ystâd eich hunan?

In terms of your estate, you have a different system in order to identify need. I had seen, at the beginning of the year, for example, Betsi Cadwaladr had said that a percentage of their buildings weren't safe for patients, et cetera. So, there's a sort of contradiction here: you're responsible for the policy framework, but you also have a number of buildings that you're responsible for. Are you trying to align the assessment, the policy framework, for the assessment risk in general, for every building, with the way that you assess the risk in terms of your own estate?


I think, in practice, there are multiple risk registers out there, depending on who owns them. So, I'd expect local authorities to have a risk register around their own building control function—so, is that red, amber, green, or not? They're likely to have a risk register as well particularly where they've got some high-risk buildings. We've obviously got risk registers for the areas of work that we're responsible for, but I wouldn't say that there is one overall risk register for building safety in Wales. In reality, the picture is much more complicated than that, and depends on where those risks actually lie.

Yes, and in some cases, they're context specific. So, the major risk in an NHS environment, for example, has specificities that would mean that that would need to be reflected in their own risk register. I think that's fine.

Thank you very much, Chair. I'm in London; it's very sunny here. It's a joy to join you. My questioning is about the other matters. In the evidence last time, LABC, when the Chair asked them whether LABC considered itself to have a conflict of interest in offering services to the Welsh Government, they said that it is a non-profit organisation for the benefit of the public, and they don't think that there is any conflict of interest. Now, I know that the Welsh Government had given LABC roughly about £350,000 funding for eight new trainee inspectors, as we earlier talked. And also they received a £20 million grant last year, which is being delivered over a three-year period, for the recruitment of around 100 trainee building control surveyors, and also for the provision of 2,000 courses of education to existing public service building control surveyors. I have two questions. Is the Welsh Government satisfied that LABC does not have a conflict of interest? And should it be offering services to the Welsh Government and councils, while also being a representative body? Thank you.

Thank you. So, just to be clear, we don't provide any core funding to LABC, but we have provided some funding, as the Member has said, for the specific trainee programme. So, LABC are a representative body, they are a membership body—they're not an independent regulator, as such. So, I suppose they will always have the interests of their members at heart. I think the key for us is that we don't have a conflict of interest with LABC—so they can't be reviewing their own work, for example. But we need to be really clear that LABC are a very important player in this space. They make an excellent contribution to the improvement agenda for building control, they've got a very strong leadership role, and we've got a good working relationship with them. So, we're very keen to keep benefiting from their ideas and their contributions, but we would always have a weather eye out as to whether or not there was any conflict, and, obviously, we would take steps to do so if that were the case. But as I say, they have interests, but those are interests that I believe are managed.

Now, I don't know whether they have any other competitors. But let me go over to the second question. Are there any other matters relating to the scope and commentary within the auditor general’s report that the Welsh Government would wish to comment on before we consider retrospective safety issues?

We've always got something to say on these matters. Just to repeat that this genuinely is a report we welcomed, because, as you say, we asked the auditor general, as part of their consultation on work, to undertake it. It was an area that we really wanted them to work on, so we do genuinely welcome this work. And if I've got the floor for a second, Chair, I'd just like to thank the teams within Welsh Government for the really hard work that they've put in to taking forward this body of work. It's difficult, it's complex, and they haven't always had the resources that they've needed, but they've done a really good job in getting us to where we are now. So, I think that is all I would say.

Maybe just one final point very quickly. There's some very technical stuff in the auditor general's report, as we just found when we were talking about the regulations, the precise application and consequences et cetera. So, maybe there's a little bit of work for us to do between our local government finance colleagues and maybe the auditor general's team to make sure that we're providing PAPAC with some clear advice and understanding on that issue. 


Okay, thank you very much indeed. Time is short; I'll try and get through the last bit as succinctly as possible. Has the Welsh Government established any specific target dates or milestones against which progress in addressing retrospective remediation issues is being assessed across the different interventions?

Each building, each project, has its own milestones and commitments within it. So, there isn't an overall milestone date, I suppose I'm allowed to say, but each project or each part of it will have their own milestones, and we do very formal monitoring of each individual undertaking. Sorry, Chair, that's not a very coherent answer to your question. Do you want to give it a better go, Emma? 

I'll add a little bit to that. Thank you, Tracey. So, depending on the type of building—and, obviously, each building is complex and individual; there is no one single route to remediation for buildings across the piece—for example those that are within the developer contract, there are quarterly monitoring meetings between us and the developers to ensure that they're on track, and that the agreed programme of works is reasonable and the timescales are reasonable. So, there's quite formal monitoring there. For some of the other routes, there will be different monitoring, for example where we've got grant awards in place for remediation of social sector buildings. Then there will be some structure there around what the expectations are, but as Tracey says, there isn't an overall timeline and milestones, because I think that would be a little bit of a hostage to fortune. There is a building-by-building and a scheme-by-scheme approach to managing the balance between ensuring that we are addressing the safety issues in these buildings appropriately and getting the right quality, but also not building in any unnecessary delays so that we have these buildings remediated as soon as possible. 

Okay. Given what you say that it's specific to each individual building and there are no specific overarching timelines or milestones, to what extent is the pace of progress across the various interventions in the Welsh Government’s direct control, or dependent on others?

I think the pace is dependent to a large extent on others, because we're not actually doing the work ourselves as Welsh Government, but I do think it varies depending on the different interventions. So, if you take the social sector and orphan buildings where we're providing grant funding, we're much more in control of the timetable for those, more so than when we're working with and through the developers, particularly where it's in private ownership, because there can be lots of licences, for example, that are needed—licences to access the building for the surveys to be done, permissions to be granted et cetera. So, we can have more pace and more control on social and orphan than we can on the others, Chair—I think that's my answer to that. 


Okay. In evidence to the Local Government and Housing Committee, the Minister mentioned the prospect of the remediation process potentially taking three to five years to fully resolve. What are the key reasons for such a long timescale?

It's just so complex, Emma, isn't it? It's just the sheer complexity of it all.

Yes, absolutely, Tracey. And the number of buildings involved, as mentioned earlier. We don’t have the very significant numbers of buildings affected in Wales as they do in England, but we are, in effect, drawing on many of the same contractors, the specialists and suppliers, in order to be able to remediate these buildings. So, there are lots of aspects that are outside of our control. We need to make sure that we are using high-quality contractors to do this work. They are inundated—there was an awful lot of work around. So, there are an awful lot of factors that are out there. And it’s one of the reasons why we’ve been keen to avoid putting specific timescales in place. We are keen to get every building resolved as quickly as possible, and the Minister has been very clear in her ambitions around that. But we need to take the right pace, get the right developers lined up, as Tracey has alluded to: licences, planning permission, procurement exercises, ensuring that we’ve got value for money where we’re putting grant funding in, et cetera—all building a level of uncertainty that is outwith our control.

What, if any, timescales and monitoring processes exist in England, as you mentioned England?

I think they are in a similar position in that they are using grant mechanisms et cetera and the monitoring and contract arrangements with the larger developers are similar to ours. We work very closely with all of the UK nations and share best practice and experience as we go along. So, I don't think that there is anything out there happening in another nation that is missing in Wales in terms of the way we monitor these things, and if there was, we would be picking it up through our connections and looking very seriously at whether we should apply similar.

How, if at all, is the Welsh Government bringing different stakeholders together to ensure that momentum is sustained and, where possible, accelerated?

That's a really key part of our work, Chair, bringing the stakeholders together. We've got something called the strategic stakeholder group, and that brings together almost everybody that you would expect to see round the table, so representatives of residents, in the form of the tenants associations, the Welsh Cladiators, representatives of industry itself, and also the technical experts, from architects to engineers. It's got local government, WLGA. It really is a very full stakeholder group, and with them and through them we are discussing just all of those issues, Chair. But outside of that stakeholder group, we are acting as a facilitator to try to keep the momentum up, keep the pace on, so making sure there are no information flow blockages, and a phrase that Emma uses a lot—'bringing everyone to the table' to try to resolve issues. I'm not sure everybody would agree that we've got good stakeholder engagement. I believe we do, and we're certainly trying to make as much progress as we can.

Can I ask, given the delay we had at the outset because of technical issues, can we run over five minutes, or do you need to leave at 11.00 a.m.?

We're fine for another 10 minutes, Chair.

I'm assuming we are, colleagues. I was speaking for all of us there—the royal 'we'. 

Thank you. Finally, I've got a few specific issues to request answers to. When does the Welsh Government expect that the 25 remaining intrusive surveys it has identified as necessary since the launch of the building safety fund will be completed?

I think they're nearly done, are they, Emma?

I'm happy to take this. I'm pleased to report it's actually fewer than 25 outstanding now. I think it's 18, so eight have been completed since then. You'll note that the difference was seven. That's because, actually, one of the expressions of interest there turned out to be two buildings, so we gained a building but we've progressed on eight of those. The rest are forthcoming, 10 of which are waiting for licences for freeholders, but those are on their way. So, all in hand and we would expect those surveys to be completed in fairly short order.


Okay. What further details can you provide of plans for works under the developer pact contracts? For example, are you expecting the 34 works already currently under way to complete and how long is the overall programme likely to last?

Emma, can I turn to you for that detail?

Yes. I think, Chair, that my previous answer stands—that we don't have a specific timeline. As we get into each building, a more detailed timeline for that building is developed in conjunction with the responsible persons. We have 34 on site. I wouldn't want to become, again, hostage to fortune by saying when those buildings will be complete. The important thing is that the work is happening, it's in progress and plans are in development for all of the rest of the buildings that are under that scheme. I think we've got 127 buildings covered by the developer contract. So, 34 are on site, and I think one has been completed. We've got another 34 that are due on site during the next year, from the plans that have been developed, and working with the developers on the rest of those buildings to work through those timelines. And then, because they're under contract, of course, we will then be holding them to account for delivery against the timescales that have been agreed as part of that contract.

Okay. Thank you. Why did the Welsh Government opt for the developer's pact rather than apply relevant provisions of the Building Safety Act in Wales?

I think, in some ways, it's not an either/or. As you'll note in England, they've taken a different legislative route, but they have also got a similar contract arrangement with the larger developers. So, I don't think it's an either/or; they are two slightly separate issues. I'm conscious of time and not wishing to get into the incredibly complex area of trying to unpick a set of provisions that are contained within a UK Government Act and, therefore, obviously, could not transpose, as drafted, directly into Welsh law. We worked with the UK Government on the construction phase, as we've just been discussing, of the regime, but the rest of the regime for Wales will be brought forward in a piece of Welsh legislation that is right and worked through for meeting the ambitions of Welsh Ministers, but also, importantly, integrated into our very different legislative landscape.

So, the provisions that are under discussion do a number of key things, and each of them have been assessed as to whether they are part of the policy response in Wales. Some of them are being considered for the future, but things like the limitation on the amount that a leasholder could be paid is part of those provisions, while actually, in Wales, Welsh Ministers have been very clear that they don't want leaseholders to be making any contribution to the remediation of works that were not of their making. So, that limited liability isn't needed in that policy context. So, as I say, it's a very complex area. There are many different ways that you could answer it, including that it's not appropriate to just lift legislation here, the policy context is slightly different, but it does not negate the need for a contract in England, and we have the contract with our larger developers here in Wales.

Okay. Thank you. What, if any, options are you looking at to support smaller developers who may not be able to cover the full costs of remediation, and when do you expect to bring forward any proposals?

We've been very conscious of small developers. Emma has just said that we don't want the leaseholders to have to incur costs, but we do recognise that, whilst we want developers to step up, some smaller developers may not be able to and that there may be economic or social consequences for them having to fully fund the remediation works. So, we will be looking where there are shortfalls to grant aid, for those smaller developers, so that the costs can be met, and that's something that the Minister has announced very recently. So, that's our plan there.

Okay. When do you expect to conclude the work schedule planning for orphaned buildings, and when is the work that's already started on three buildings expected to complete?


I know we've done all of the surveys on the orphan buildings, and a lot of the—. Well, the schedules of works are under way. I think we're planning that there'll be a work schedule for all orphan buildings by the end of this year. But I don't know where we are on the ones that have started. Emma, do you know?

I think it's a similar answer to earlier, that I couldn't give you an exact end date. It would be misleading for me to try and say a specific end date. I think it's actually four that we have in play at the moment, where work has actually started, and that work is being monitored through our monitoring meetings to make sure that it's on track.

Okay, thank you. The latest figures presented to the Local Government and Housing Committee suggest that the amount of work being supported on social sector buildings has continued to grow since March 2023. Can you confirm whether that is the case, and, if so, are you confident that you now have a full picture of demand from that sector?

I think we're nearly confident, Chair. There have been a number of rounds of calls for social sector buildings to come forward, and that has, in part, explained why the numbers increased. We have a final call-out to the social sector in February, I think it is, and I would imagine then that we will have the final—I'd never say 'final final'—or I think we will be very confident that we've got the full picture once those final applications are in, Chair.

When this year does the Welsh Government expect that the new, independent legal advice for leaseholders will launch?

That's well in train. I think we're hoping the beginning of the next financial year.

Yes, early in the new financial year. We're in the course of procuring that professional service at the moment.

When do you expect that the new joint inspection team will be in place and its methodology established, and how confident are you that it will be able to recruit to the team?

So, the JIT, as we call it—but, not to use the acronym—the joint inspection team is established, in that it was established as a company limited by guarantee in, I think, October, in the autumn of last year. So, that's actually established. Methodology has been subject to a lot of discussion, particularly with the fire and rescue service, but I think we're confident we're nearly there now on that. We'll be in a position to have that method agreed for the first building or buildings, probably in the next financial year—early in the financial year. In terms of—. Chair, sorry, I've forgotten the last part of your question. Oh, recruitment. Recruitment's going well. There's been a lot of interest in it, hasn't there?

Absolutely. Interviews have been going on over the last fortnight, so, obviously, I'm not at liberty to disclose what the outcome of those is, but the four key lead posts have been advertised and interviews undertaken, and, of course, the senior officer has been in post since just over a year ago.

And one final, short question: what is the latest timetable for introduction of the building safety (Wales) Bill to the Senedd?

Well, that's an easier question to finish on, actually. So, the Bill will be introduced in the final year of the Senedd term. Work is on track for that. The precise date will, obviously, be down to the First Minister when he sets out his statement on the legislative programme, because we have to fit in around the other Bills that will be timetabled in that year. But, without wanting to jinx anything, we are well advanced with the Bill, so we're confident that it will be introduced in the final year of the Senedd term.

Okay, thank you. That brings Members' questions to a conclusion for today, so, thank you, all, for attending and answering our questions. As you'll be aware, a transcript of today's meeting will be published in draft form and shared with you to check for accuracy before being published.

4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod
4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting


bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).


that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

So, Members, I propose that, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix), the committee resolves to meet in private for the remainder of today's meeting. Are all Members content? Thank you. I see that all Members are content. I'd be grateful if we could go into private session.


Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:10.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 11:10.