Man charged with fraud after cladding form probe

A Liverpool man has been charged with fraud, following an investigation into the misuse of forms designed to identify cladding fire risk.

Merseyside Police said Thomas Michael Clarke, 33, of Knowsley Lane, Prescot, would appear in court on 3 August.

A 19-month probe was triggered after residents of high-rise apartment buildings reported that 88 EWS1 forms had been signed by an unauthorised individual between June and November 2020.

The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau passed these resident reports, which affected people in areas including London and South Wales, on to Merseyside Police.

Clarke has been charged with fraud by false representation. The police force would not give any further details of its investigation.

EWS1 forms were introduced by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) following the Grenfell Tower tragedy as a way for a building owner to confirm to valuers and lenders that an external wall system or attachments had been “assessed by a suitable expert for likelihood of proportionate remediation to address fire safety risk”.

The RICS said it had its own investigation into the case and could not comment at present.

On the broader question of potential misuse of cladding advice, the body pointed to a section on its website that states: “We have been made aware that unqualified people may be signing off EWS1 forms.

“RICS condemns anyone using the current situation for their own personal gain, with potentially dangerous consequences for residents, and would urge that any further information related to this is made available to trading standards and RICS, if appropriate.”

The correct checks have since been completed in each case, according to Merseyside Police, and have received the appropriate authorisation.

The latest edition of the EWS1 form – which was introduced earlier this year, after the time of the alleged fraud – requires the signatory to confirm they have “used reasonable skill and care to investigate […] primary external wall materials”.

Where external walls are deemed unlikely to support combustion, the signatory must be a qualified member of a relevant construction industry professional body, and have “the expertise to identify the relevant materials within the external wall and attachments, and whether fire-resisting cavity barriers and fire-stopping measures have been installed correctly”.

However, where combustible materials are present, and a view is taken of whether remedial works are required, a higher level of expertise is required from the signatory such as, but not limited to, full membership of the Institution of Fire Engineers.

The RICS website states: “UK banks and building societies have robust measures in place to protect people against fraud, which would pick up any EWS1 form that is suspicious, but we encourage everyone to check the signatory on a form with the professional’s institution. If an RICS member is completing your EWS1 form, you can check their membership with us on our website.”

The website adds: “There is a list of suggested bodies to contact to source fire experts. This list is not exhaustive, nor does it constitute an endorsement or approval from RICS, UKF or BSA, and other bodies with relevant expertise may be able to assist.”

Leave a comment