Hackney mayor discusses FRA publications
PHILIP GLANVILLE discussed why the council was publishing 1,800 fire risk assessments (FRAs), and why ‘it’s the right thing to do’.
Mr Glanville wrote for Inside Housing on the subject of FRAs, having previously apologised for providing incorrect fire safety information on the day of the Grenfell Tower fire and ‘misleading’ the public. He had stated on 14 June that ‘all of our buildings have an up-to-date fire risk assessment (FRA)’, but after one assessment was found to be ‘out of date’ and another had not been undertaken for five years, he said ‘we apologise, it was not our intention to mislead anyone’. He had also claimed that the ‘priority work’ needed on building had ‘been done’, though this was also ‘false’.
At that time, his view was that the current fire safety system is ‘not fit for purpose’, and the council was keen to release historical FRAs to ‘reassure residents and take all necessary measures to keep residents in our properties and their homes safe’. In his recent article, he stated that ministers ‘have now backed calls’ for all social housing providers to publish FRAs, with Hackney’s ‘unprecedented step’ of publishing so many causing many to ‘look at me with a mix of confusion and bewilderment’.
With FRAs being published since mid July by Hackney online ‘for all to see’, 1,760 have now been uploaded, which is ‘more than any other housing provider in the country’. Mr Glanville pointed out again that FRAs ‘aren’t perfect’ as they ‘might not assess cladding, they might not include detailed investigation, and crucially, they’re a snapshot of what was found at the time of inspection’, calling them an ‘MOT of a building’s safety, not a comprehensive service’.
From his perspective however, he was proud that ‘we’ve led the way with this commitment to transparency, so crucial to maintain trust with tenants and leaseholders – and rebuild it where necessary’, adding that publication has ‘thrown up a range of questions from residents, staff and the press’, also causing a ‘severe strain on our day-to-day work’.
However, for him, ‘if we’re going to have a fundamental conversation about fire safety in our country, and reassure residents who too often feel that as landlords we have a hidden agenda that doesn’t represent their interests, then surely we must start from an honest statement of the facts’. The Grenfell Tower fire was a ‘reminder of our core function as landlords and local authorities – to keep people safe’, so publishing FRAs is ‘just one part of reassuring residents – and ourselves – that our buildings are safe’.
The council has also ordered independent inspections of all cladding, as well as ‘commissioning further work where necessary’, creating a ‘highly visible’ fire safety team and hiring an independent fire safety advisor. It also communicated with residents across media, holding meetings and starting a scrutiny process, Mr Glanville commenting that this work ‘won’t stop’.
He added that building regulations are ‘not fit for purpose’, and that ‘vital fire safety improvements necessary’ in coming years ‘risk decimating the budgets of councils and housing associations unless the government changes tack’. With ‘arbitrarily limited resources’, the councils will struggle to ‘fulfil’ fire safety work, improvements and repairs and ‘building a new generation’ of homes, Mr Glanville pointing out that ‘we should not be forced to choose between the safety and quality of our tenants’ homes’.
Concluding, Mr Glanville stated: ‘By making a clear commitment to funding fire safety work nationally, and establishing a new independent institute for fire safety that would carry out a root-and-branch reform of our rotten system, this government can demonstrate that it has listened to the clear voices of social housing tenants.’