Hackney says works could take ‘years’ without help

Hackney says works could take ‘years’ without help

THE COUNCIL has stated that the ‘essential’ housing works ‘face years of delays’ without the government’s help on fire safety.

Hackney Citizen reported on Hackney Council’s warnings that housing issues ‘could go unrepaired’, should the government refuse to fund fire safety work. It was responding to the London Assembly’s report that called for sprinklers ‘in every tower block’, with the newspaper adding that Hackney Council had previously disclosed that ‘at least’ 40% of the high priority jobs picked up in fire risk assessments (FRAs) ‘will breach’ a one month window recommended by experts.

In total, over 1,000 ‘urgent’ fire safety repairs ‘could be outstanding’ by the one year anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire this June, and with another 12,571 ‘medium priority’ recommendations identified, around 60% of these (or 7,428) are ‘still outstanding’. Emergency repairs would not be ‘impacted’, with roof replacement one of the types of repair works that ‘could be delayed’.

The council also noted that while it welcomed the London Assembly’s findings that the ‘government should be doing more’, it has not changed its position on sprinkler retrofitting in high rises, which is ‘to act on expert advice’ while awaiting the outcomes of both the Grenfell inquiry and the Hackitt review of building regulations and fire safety. It will however install sprinklers in 114 homes in a 19 storey tower block, as it reported earlier this year.

A spokesperson stated: ‘The council continues to address the many recommendations following our fire safety review, and these could cost in the region of £20m for the next year alone. This figure is highly likely to continue to rise. The fire safety works will need to be considered alongside the other needs of the housing service and available resources. Without additional resources from the government, essential maintenance works to our housing stock will be postponed for a number of years.

‘The council has committed to installing sprinklers if recommended to do so by the London Fire Brigade and the council’s independent fire safety advisor. On this basis, we have already begun to install sprinklers in one of our high rise blocks and will continue to retrofit sprinklers in other buildings if such advice is given to us. The council will continue to ask central government for additional resources to fund the immediate and longer term remedial fire safety work across the council’s housing stock.’

In January, only three council owned high rises had been reclad nationwide of 160 that failed the government’s fire safety tests. The government’s pace of response was attacked by Labour as ‘simply not good enough’, with details having emerged regarding councils requesting funding assistance, and it was accused in parliament of breaking its pledge to help councils with funding.

Four were reported to be set to receive funding, after an update from the director general of building safety for the ministry of housing, communities and local government told a parliamentary select committee that the department ‘has received inquiries from 36 councils about financial help’, but that ‘so far none have been approved’.

Last year, the council – through mayor Philip Glanville – released 1,800 FRAs online having previously apologised for providing incorrect fire safety information on the day of the Grenfell 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’.

FRAs ordered have found there are nearly 3,000 jobs to be undertaken, and in a report published following the review, 1,823 FRAs were carried out that found 21,743 issues, with 2,968 of these deemed ‘high priority’ and 11 ‘critical’.

These have been fixed, with plans to bring FRAs ‘back in house’, even though historically they have been done by private firms under a contract worth £450,000 last year. However, the report claims it can now cost ‘as much as’ £2.7m for a three year contract, or £900,000 a year. The council had stated a cladding report was being written, but has now said it will not be produced, while a former health and safety officer had stated that information given to residents about upcoming cladding work was ‘meaningless’, with fire risks still remaining.