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Joint Inspection Team (JIT): a national fire safety inspection resource

These resources help the Joint Inspection Team (JIT) to assist councils help train council staff to do their own inspections and take enforcement action against the presence of Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding in high-rise residential blocks.

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In 2021 the JIT's remit was expanded to cover non-ACM combustible cladding, and to help train council staff to do their own inspections and take enforcement action.

Working together

The JIT is funded by DLUHC. It acts as an expert adviser to local councils, but does not have its own legal powers, instead supporting councils to use their own. Subject blocks must be over 11m, with the focus on residential buildings over 18 metres, assessing the level of any fire safety hazards using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) operating guidance.

The team is comprised of fire engineers, building control surveyors and environmental health officers (EHOs). There are also support staff including intelligence officers and ready access to specialist legal advice. 

Although the JIT advises on enforcement using the Building Safety Act 2022 and the Housing Act 2004, because it is specifically advising councils, it is a multi-disciplinary team that also includes a fire engineer. Councils usually decide to share the inspection report with their local FRS and involve them in developing a plan of action.

The first inspections took place in 2019. Since then, the team had conducted 97 inspections as at the end of March 2024. From those inspections of buildings, 41 Category 1 hazards have been identified.  Councils have a duty to enforce on Category 1 hazards, and the JIT have assisted councils at all stages. There have also been 56 ‘Category 2’ hazards, and on many of those, councils served Improvement Notices. Although the JIT only visits blocks with combustible cladding, other issues are always found to require remediation, so the team’s impact reaches further than initially intended.

Brian Castle, Team Director, said: 

Having this expertise within one team enables us to say what the real risk is. Our experts in building construction and fire safety can discuss and evaluate what is there, even when they can’t actually see it, and assess the likely effects of a fire starting in various places in a building. Then, as we are using Housing Act legislation, we need environmental health officers to assess the risk of any hazards, using the HHSRS, and advise on how the legislation applies.

Following a site visit of up to two days, the JIT outlines the findings to the host council and provides an extensive report and risk assessment. Where there are serious problems in a block, the council (or FRS) can use this evidence to take enforcement action.

This expert input can make a big difference in getting landlords to accept what needs to be done. Once they are presented with the evidence, some landlords concede quickly; others concede slowly. Brian said: 

There can be some real tactics at play, but they eventually give in because we are able to present such solid evidence.

The JIT is now helping to build the knowledge base within councils to do their own enforcement, both through free fire safety training courses (Levels one and two) and by sharing information on the LGA website and KHub online resource. 

To date level one training has been attended by more than 850 council officers from 170 local authorities. The more in depth level two training has been attended by 500 officers from over 100 local councils.  Feedback from both courses has been high with 95 per cent reporting to be either very or fairly satisfied with the courses.


Documentation is usually better when the building was signed off by building control surveyors. However, in one recent instance, a council had a policy of destroying documents after six years, so all the floor plans and documentation had gone. Landlords often mistakenly believe that sign-off as compliant with building regulations rules out action under the Housing Act. Delaying tactics are common.

Lack of resourcing within councils is another challenge. Often, environmental health teams in areas with lots of unsafe blocks do not have enough staff or skills to tackle them. The JIT is helping with training, but there is a need for councils to be properly resourced so that they can employ enough staff for this challenge.

According to the JIT, these are all common challenges that councils and FRSs all around England will be grappling with.  

The administration involved in serving an Improvement Notice is complex but at present that is often the only viable route, so the JIT supports councils to do that. Under the Fire Safety Act 2021, fire service colleagues will unambiguously be able to enforce on wall systems as well, but how much that option is taken up depends on other factors. FRSs are often not resourced for enforcement. It can also involve a significant culture change for the service, which has not historically had a strong enforcement role.

Enforcement examples  

In one example, the JIT inspected a block that was reported to have ACM in the wall system. The local fire and rescue service had shared information on the block and the landlord.

The team found that the cladding was less than 5 per cent ACM, but there were other problems. These included vertically aligned balconies with combustibles that would probably lead to a fire spreading up the block, and a number of other issues inside the block. It was assessed as a ‘Category 1’ hazard. The council served an Improvement Notice, and both the council and the FRS helped to monitor progress towards an acceptable conclusion.

In another instance, a council contacted the JIT concerned about a block. A virtual meeting was held, which also involved the local fire service, and documentation was shared with the JIT. Following the team’s advice the FRS served an Enforcement Notice and, at the same time, the council served an Improvement Notice on the same block.

Brian said: 

In that example, both the council and FRS served notice on similar issues. Their logic was that if they served an Improvement Notice which didn’t include something on fire safety, the landlord would not take it seriously. They did both and it was really effective. We didn’t even visit that site, we talked them through it. I understand that the landlords went on to remediate.


Learning points

  • Some issues in a block lend themselves better to enforcement under the Building Safety Act 2022, or the Housing Act 2004 and some under the Fire Safety Order, and in all cases the JIT recommends that councils and FRSs work together to decide who should lead on which problem.
  • Some areas are good at sharing intelligence between the council and FRS that could be useful, for example historical knowledge about a building or landlord.
  • A lack of knowledge within a council – including among senior officers – about the legal duties under the Housing Act can result in important information not getting to those who have the legal powers to deal with it.
  • Through working in a joint team the experts have become better at explaining what they can see in a building to the rest of the team, and at communicating its relevance.
  • The JIT’s fire engineer previously served as a fire fighter, and this knowledge of both the theory and practice of fire fighting has added an extra dimension to their input.


Brian Castle
Team Leader
Joint Inspection Team
[email protected]