Housing trust left tenants ‘at risk from fire’

Housing trust left tenants ‘at risk from fire’

MERSEYSIDE FIRE and Rescue Service (MFRS) found that Knowsley Housing Trust (KHT) had left hundreds of residents in its tower blocks ‘at risk from fire for months’.

BBC News reported on comments from the Regulator of Social Housing, after MFRS assessed Quarry Green Heights in Kirkby following the Grenfell Tower fire, and found that hundreds of residents in the blocks ‘were left at risk from fire for months’, KHT having ‘failed to complete fire safety work on time’. MFRS inspected the blocks in June 2017 and warned in follow up letters that August and September of actions required, which KHT ‘failed to perform’.

Among the actions required were repair of fire doors, better compartmentation between flats and ‘improved safety’ on rubbish chutes, while the regulator had also learned KHT ‘had a number of high-risk safety actions outstanding’ at other properties, which ‘potentially affected hundreds of tenants for a number of months’. MFRS issued three enforcement notices to KHT last November, while an internal KHT audit found ‘systemic failure’ to comply with fire safety regulations.

Local MP for Knowsley, George Howarth, called for resignations over the ‘unforgivable failure’, and noted that he was ‘deeply concerned’, calling for resignations at the company. He had written to social landlords including KHT in the aftermath of Grenfell, and the trust had said they had ‘no problems whatsoever’, which he pointed out was ‘simply wrong’. He and Knowsley Council leader Graham Morgan have asked KHT for an urgent meeting in response.

In response, KHT said it had made the changes and ‘will work with the regulator’, with executive director Tony Cahill commenting that the safety of its residents had been its ‘number one priority’, and that it had put ‘additional measures in place whilst the works were undertaken. We now have new teams in place who are monitoring our approach to fire safety and statutory compliance, to ensure they are robust.

‘Both the board and the executive officers have recognised the need to learn lessons from these events and we are committed to implementing any changes necessary to protect our tenants’. The Regulator of Social Housing stated that KHT had ‘provided assurance’ that the work had been completed, and it would consider if ‘further action should be taken’.