West Dunbartonshire Council to call for delay to new fire alarm rules

Calls are being made to delay new regulations requiring every home to have interlinked fire alarms – amid concerns many residents are unaware of the rules.

From February, all homeowners must have connected smoke and heat alarms under legislation brought forward after the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017.

It means the interlinked alarms will all sound when one detects danger.

Homes that have a fuel-burning appliance, such as a boiler, an open fire or a log burner, will also need to have a carbon monoxide alarm installed in the room the appliance is in.

The deadline for the new rules has already been delayed for a year but West Dunbartonshire Council will now write to the Scottish Government requesting it is pushed back by a further 18 months.

Some councillors say many residents still aren’t aware of the new rules and that some might not be able to afford the cost of installing the alarms, which could invalidate their home insurance.

However, SNP council leader Jonathan McColl argued that the legal requirement should be put in place as planned to protect the safety of residents.

Labour’s David McBride tabled a motion at a recent full council meeting calling for a delay.

He said: “I really don’t think the public awareness is there.”

Councillor David McBride

He said an average three-bedroom house would require five interlinked alarms, made up of three smoke alarms, one heat alarm and one carbon monoxide detector, at an estimated cost of £220.

He added that there was also “a high degree of uncertainty and anxiety regarding the availability of skilled trades and equipment and about ensuring that the fire safety equipment gets installed by the prescribed deadline, especially as failure to do so could invalidate house insurance”.

The Scottish Government is providing £500,000 to help eligible older and disabled homeowners with installation, in partnership with Care and Repair Scotland.

However, it was reported last month that only 800 people had taken up the offer.

Councillor Jim Bollan, of West Dunbartonshire Community Party, said more work needed to be done to raise awareness of the financial help available from the Scottish Government, given the low take up.

He supported calls for the delay, commenting: “We need to strike a balance between the safety of people and the fact the regulations were rolled out in the pandemic.”

Alba councillor Caroline McAllister suggested an 18 month delay instead of Labour’s one year proposal, commenting: “We have been in a pandemic for close on to 20 months. Our lives are not as we knew it, so I don’t think people have tuned into awareness campaigns.”

But the SNP leader said the deadline should remain, explaining: “I am concerned about the risk here that there are very good reasons for this legislation coming into play.

Councillor Caroline McAllister

“Awareness raising was the reason for the delay of a year that we’ve already had.

“I don’t think it’s necessary or a safe idea to delay it for a further period of time.

“The one I’m particularly worried about is landlords not spending the couple hundred quid required in order to comply with legislation.

“There is funding there to those who need it.”

However his amendment was defeated by Labour’s motion by 11 votes to eight, meaning the chief executive will now write to the First Minister requesting the legal deadline is extended by 18 months.

The council will also request that appropriate financial assistance be made available by the Scottish Government for people on low incomes to enable them to meet the cost of required installation.

Furthermore, the local authority will consider how it could match-fund any financial assistance and an information campaign will run during January to raise awareness of the new requirements.

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