GLOUCESTERSHIRE firefighters carried out hundreds fewer safety checks on buildings last year compared with a decade ago, new figures reveal.

Fire services conduct audits on most public buildings and the shared areas of residential properties such as flats to make sure they are in line with safety laws.

But with inspections hitting a record low across England last year, the Fire Brigades Union warns the scale of the building safety crisis – exposed by the Grenfell Tower fire – is “beyond all current comprehension”.

Home Office data shows the Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service completed 610 fire safety audits on buildings in 2019-20.

This was 758 fewer than the 1,368 inspections recorded in 2010-11, when comparable records began.

Buildings tested include care homes, hospitals and high-rises, as well as schools and shops.

But Ian Tonner, lead officer for protection at Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service, said that the figures are lower due to changes in the way local risks are dealt with.

He said: “The figures for Fire Service visits to commercial premises is lower than 10 years ago across the country due to changes in the way local risks are dealt with.

“We now put much more emphasis on people, as well as property, for example we carry out more visits to the homes of the most vulnerable in our community through our Safe and Well programme, to provide advice on fire safety and their general wellbeing.

“We have increased the size of our business fire safety team and our training using government funding and carry out annual inspections on all known higher risk commercial premises in Gloucestershire.”

Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union general secretary, said more than a decade of government cuts had led to preventative work being slashed.

“The Grenfell Tower fire exposed the shameful state of building safety in the UK,” he said.

“The scale of the building safety crisis is beyond all current comprehension – and firefighters have a crucial role to play in tackling it.”

Mr Wrack said the union supports the Government’s new bills on fire safety and building safety, which aim to expand firefighters’ prevention and protection work.

“But to be effective, the fire and rescue service must be properly funded,” he added. “As things stand, the Government is trying to do public safety on the cheap.”

Of the audits undertaken in Gloucestershire last year, 80 (13%) resulted in an “unsatisfactory” rating. Crews issued 74 informal notifications to premises that had failed an audit, explaining what action needed to be taken.

If informal notifications fail, they can take tougher action.

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