28 councils request government fire safety funding
THE COUNCILS from across the country have contacted either the government or MPs for help in funding their fire safety work.
In July, Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid stated in the House of Commons that no councils in England had asked him for fire safety cash, despite a number of councils having sent him letters. However, it was then reported that Housing Minister Alok Sharma, ‘who was sitting next to Javid’ as he made his speech about the councils, ‘had actually responded to one of the councils just 24 hours earlier’.
After that, Mr Javid wrote to ‘council and housing association chiefs across the country’, stating that they will have to ‘stump up the cash to fund fire safety work on tower blocks’, and should do ‘out of their existing funds’. Now, Inside Housing has reported that a total of 28 councils have asked for fire safety funding, though ‘no cash has been allocated yet’.
The site added that councils are ‘scrambling to check and remove cladding and insulation on high rises’, with fire wardens and safety officers in place in the interim’, and Labour’s shadow secretary of state for housing John Healey submitted two questions to the government over the funding process. Mr Sharma responded by noting that 28 councils had got in touch, adding ‘We are dealing with each local authority on a case-by-case basis in order to establish whether there is a need for assistance’.
On what money had been requested, he added that ‘it is not possible to give an overall figure at this stage’, noting that ‘we are working with social landlords on a case-by-case basis to explore whether there is the possibility of the removal of financial restrictions to support essential fire safety work being undertaken’.
Inside Housing surmised that ‘this could imply a relaxation of borrowing rules on councils’ Housing Revenue Accounts which limit the amount they can borrow against future rental income’, noting that councils ‘have long lobbied for these caps to be lifted or abolished’.