How local authority building control teams can become more resilient

Construction site worker with building plans
Date Published

04/03/2021

Reading time

5 mins read

Author

Patrick Cunningham

If the Coronavirus pandemic is teaching us anything, it’s that, try as you might to have the right resources in place, you can never know when an unexpected issue, unplanned team absence or spike in demand could be lurking around the corner.

Over the past year, local authorities have had to keep ensuring citizens’ safety while dealing with building control matters with less revenue and fewer team members – and that shows no sign of changing any time soon. 

However, while you can’t predict the future, you can take steps to become more adaptable, prepared and resilient.

That last word – resilient – is one you might’ve heard in a business context before. But you may not know what it means for your specific industry. In this article, I’ll be explaining what resilience in building control looks like for local authorities – and how you can achieve it.

For teams like yours, resilience means being able to continue doing what you do to excellent standards, even when facing the kind of disruption and increased demand that Covid-19 is causing. And it means being productive today, despite the extra pressure, and ready for tomorrow.

Once you’ve cultivated a resilient building control service, you’ll have the resources and specific expertise and experience to do the following things.

Keep your local area as safe as possible

The more applications you can take care of at pace, the more buildings will be compliant and safe for the public. When you’re able to engage with your customers in a punctual, helpful way, you’ll encourage consistently high standards and avert non-compliance issues. Plus, if you do need to intervene or act, you can do so in a timely manner.

Provide the services your residents need, when they need them

Another benefit of being resilient is having the expertise and capacity you need to achieve better outcomes, on time and effectively. By increasing the capacity and capability of your service, you can process more applications and bring more building regulation fee income into your council – vital when other revenue areas such as council tax are being affected by citizens falling into arrears during the pandemic. And, by avoiding backlogs and long waiting times, you can build trust. Meaning fewer customers feel compelled to turn to Approved Inspectors for a faster service.

Guarantee an excellent service

Being resilient means consistently delivering an excellent service, even during times of enormous pressure – this not only includes quicker turnaround times, but also quality of inspections, decisions and notes. As a result, you’ll satisfy more customers. You’ll become the local authority that customers trust. That builders want to put work through. And that architects or developers want to use to check plans and administer applications.

Protect your reputation

By cultivating that excellent service, you’ll create more happy residents, members and builders, shorter delays and fewer complaints.

And by helping your team members to thrive during uncertainty, by protecting their wellbeing and providing extra support with their workload when they really need it, you’ll become an employer of choice for valuable, talented building control professionals.

Meet your aspirations

Finally, achieving resilience also means becoming more cost-efficient. Which is what happens when you’re able to break even between fee earning and non-fee earning jobs.

So that’s what resilience is, but what might be stopping you from achieving it? From my own experience, the answer is more complex than cut-and-dried.

Local authority building control services teams across the UK are reporting a variety of different challenges – many of which you might identify with. For example, due to resource issues, there are those who are facing a backlog of building regulation applications, inspections and other building control queries. Not only is this creating a delay in developments for customers, but stress and anxiety for the teams themselves.

This is due to the pressure caused by increasing workloads, along with a constant need to prioritise urgent queries where safety might be compromised.

Then there are those who, because they’re not equipped with the right expertise and resources, are unsure how best to prepare for the impending regulatory changes under the Building Safety Bill. Those who are finding recruiting building control inspectors to be a hard task. And those who have had team members move on to become approved inspectors.

Next are those who sometimes feel like their jobs are an uphill struggle. Held back by a lack of capacity, training and experience at crucial moments, they’re unable to deliver against demand. Especially when it comes to providing specialist services such as fire safety and structural assessments.

And that’s not to mention all the extra challenges that the pandemic has brought – team members off sick, shielding or having to work from home; citizens unable to pay fees because they’ve been furloughed or made redundant; businesses going bust, having to comply with constantly-changing legislation and the need to maintain productivity and high service standards despite all of this.

So that’s my summary of today’s industry challenges. But how can building control service teams achieve resilience? How can local authorities take back control today, and safeguard tomorrow? The answer is: with flexible switch-on, switch-off expert support – such as Capita’s building control resilience.

As the Director of Building Control, I recently received a call from a team that needed to add specialist skills to their offering, at very short notice. They called me on the Friday and, once the contracts were agreed and signed, I had the relevant experts in place by Monday. Similarly, I’ve known situations where we’ve rallied at the drop of a hat to cover long-term sick leave. That’s the beauty of our service – it can help local authorities respond to almost any building control need.

It’s quick and easy to procure, too. And, once the client is signed up, we can provide capacity and expertise how and when it’s needed. What’s more, our on-demand experts work with local authorities every day to build on their already significant expertise. Meaning they’re able to integrate with tools and teams at a moment’s notice. All of which can help building control services prepare for situations they can predict – and adapt to those they can’t.

As well as providing on-site support anywhere in the UK, it’s also possible to draw on our service in a remote capacity. To find out how, read my first article. Or, if you’d like to chat about your specific needs, please get in touch. You can also book a building control resilience consultation with one of our experts, which is an opportunity to review your situation and issues and draw up a plan of action to tackle them.

Capita Building Control Resilience – our full services

  • Pre-application advice
  • Plan checking
  • Site inspections
  • Full administration services
  • Dangerous structures
  • Demolitions
  • Structural design assessment and advice
  • Fire safety analysis
  • Safety at sports grounds
  • Enforcement and dispute resolution.


Capita can also provide a range of specialist services – our full services

  • Structural design, calculations and assessment
  • Fire risk assessments
  • Fire engineering analysis
  • Site investigation and geotechnical surveys
  • Environmental and energy services for SAP / SBEM calculations and EPC compliance, including sustainability advice
  • Completion, hand-over and defects management
  • Service reviews (health checks): improving service operation and getting you ready for the new Building Safety Bill regime.
Learn more about our services

Written by

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Patrick Cunningham

Director of Building Control

Patrick is a Chartered Building Control professional with over 25 years’ experience in the professional construction industry across the private and public sector. Patrick has worked 17 of those years in Building Control, in various technical and managerial roles, managing services and operations. He has therefore developed an extensive understanding and knowledge of the Building Control market.

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