West Lothian households have no "clear guidance" on new fire alarm rules

By Stuart Sommerville

A plea for better public information on changes to fire alarms in all West Lothian homes which could cost residents £200 has been rejected by the council.

Livingston South ward councillor Peter Heggie had planned to raise a motion before a meeting of the full council this week, saying he receives questions every day about the rule changes.

And his complaint of the rejection of debate was backed up by SNP members.

He said: “Households in West Lothian have no clear guidance on what they are required to do and what, if any, support is available to them.”

However, chairing the meeting fellow Conservative, Provost Tom Kerr barred the motion from being heard, ruling that standing orders governing financial implications ruled it inadmissible.

Councillor Heggie was surprised and irritated at the decision, which was outlined by the Governance Manager James Millar. The motion was overruled by Standing Order 20 (5) which states:

“Motions which, if approved, would have financial consequences for the council must:- * Contain information regarding those consequences, * Confirm that the Head of Finance and Property Services has verified the financial implications of the motion.”

The SNP group also questioned the ruling, adding that they had planned to table questions on the fire alarm situation.

New national legislation means that from February 2022 all homes must have interlinked smoke and fire alarm systems.

The proposals had been delayed by a year because of the Covid lockdowns. Information and advice is available on websites from the Holyrood government and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

However there remains widespread concern among householder that there is still too little information on the changes- especially for the elderly.

Councillor Heggie’s motion said: “I ask that officers from West Lothian council work with partners from the Scottish Government to create clear guidelines on what is required from February 2022 and what, if any, financial support may be available. I also ask that this guide be produced and delivered by 30 November, 2021 to allow our householders to have the correct information available to them and for a designated helpline to be created to answer any questions.”

After the meeting Councillor Heggie told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I brought this motion forward as I am receiving constituent questions daily regarding this new and confusing policy.

“The people of West Lothian are confused. Can they get financial support to help with the cost? What do they need to purchase/fit? What happens if they do not fit the alarms - will their home insurance still be valid? What are the correct alarms to fit many different opinions on line/in the public realm?

“I was disappointed West Lothian Council did not allow me to speak on this motion but was pleased to get cross party support when it was refused to be heard.

“I plan to continue to raise this issue and ask for the council to answer the questions and pledge to get the people of West Lothian the clearest possible answers to their questions.”

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