Government reiterates fire safety funding message
THE BUDGET yesterday did not provide ‘nationwide help for fire safety work’, though it has provided £28m to help the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire.
The Guardian reported on the government’s decision to provide £28m to ‘help the victims’ of the Grenfell Tower fire, though Chancellor Philip Hammond ‘did not announce any central government funds to pay for essential fire safety work in other towers’. He stated in parliament that the disaster was a ‘tragedy that should never have happened’, with the government committed to ensuring ‘nothing like it ever happens again’.
He added that the £28m pledged to Kensington and Chelsea Council would be for ‘mental health services, regeneration support for the surrounding areas and to provide a new community space’, though The Guardian pointed out that Mr Hammond ‘did not announce any nationwide funding to help local councils carry out urgent upgrades’ however, and he stated that councils ‘short of cash’ would need to apply to central government for help.
Mr Hammond stated: ‘All local authorities and housing associations must carry out any identified necessary safety works as soon as possible. If any local authority cannot access funding to pay for essential fire safety work, they should contact us immediately. As I have said before, we will not let financial constraints get in the way of essential safety work.’
In response, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the government of ‘once again’ failing to fund the urgent safety improvements, adding: ‘The horrors of Grenfell Tower are a reflection of a system which puts profits before people, that fails to listen to working-class communities. In 2013, the government received advice in a coroner’s report that sprinklers should be fitted in all high-rise buildings. Today, once again, the government failed to fund the £1bn investment needed.’
He also referenced previous attempts by councils to ask the government for funding work including sprinkler retrofitting, but ‘nothing was offered to them’, and cited the fire safety upgrades to take place at parliament by pointing out that MPs ‘had the privilege of working in a building which is about to be retrofitted with sprinklers’, stating: ‘The message is pretty clear - this government cares more about what happens here than what happens to people living in high-rise homes.’
Elizabeth Campbell, leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, stated that the £28m would secure a ‘long term future for the people of north Kensington’, adding that ‘we want to redouble our efforts before Christmas to help families with children. We had emergency reserves and we have spent them on what was a national emergency. Few councils would have had the emergency reserves to do so. This extra funding allows us to look beyond the ongoing rehousing effort, which we have spent over £200m on’.