London councils spend £100m on fire safety works

London councils spend £100m on fire safety works

THE COUNCILS across the city have spent nearly £100m already on fire safety measures in the year since the Grenfell Tower fire.

Last November, it was reported that borough councils across the capital would be spending around £383m to ‘make social housing safer’ after the Grenfell Tower fire. Now, BBC News has reported that £100m has been spent so far, with some councils stating that they have had to ‘delay refurbishing council flats to pay for the fire safety works’.

The details were revealed by a series of BBC freedom of information requests, with the expenditure coming from 24 of the boroughs and going towards cladding removal, ‘waking watches’ on fire risk buildings, safety surveys and other improvements. This report also stated however that some borough councils ‘are still finding new safety issues a year after the disaster’, with Barnet finding 1,183 Manse Masterdor fire doors installed in 2013 and 2014 ‘do not provide enough resistance to fire and will need to be replaced’, at a cost of £1.5m.

Camden Council has spent £33m in the last year, while Newham has spent £20m, and Kensington and Chelsea – where Grenfell Tower is situated – has spent £4.6m so far but separately spent £235m responding to the disaster and ‘exhausting its reserves’. Croydon Council stated that the lack of government funding for its works have ‘caused it to cut refurbishment work to pay for sprinkler installation[s] in high rises’.

Alison Butler, Croydon’s cabinet member for housing, stated that ‘we are funding this £10m in sprinkler work, because we are determined to do that, but that does mean other things we hope to do, to keep our flats decent, will have to suffer and wait in the long term’. Both Enfield and Brent borough councils have had applications for funding to retrofit sprinklers turned down, while Newham ‘has yet to receive’ any funding for safety works.

Housing charity Shelter told BBC News that several London councils had told the charity they ‘have had to delay or cut refurbishment works and fuel poverty reduction programmes to pay for safety work’, with cladding replacement work ‘as it stands’ the only work done by councils that will be funded by the government.

Nick Hurd, Police and Fire Service Minister, stated that landlords ‘in genuine financial difficulty should approach the government to discuss their issues’, adding: ‘I imagine for most tenants, if asked what their primary concern was, it would be safety and wanting to feel secure in their homes, and that's the primary responsibility of the landlord which they've got to step up to.’

Prime Minister Theresa May recently committed to spending around £400m to pay for the removal of flammable cladding from local authority and housing association high rises. However, it was later reported that the government has admitted that the funding ‘will be taken from [its] Affordable Homes Programme’, which means ‘fewer affordable homes will be built in the coming years’, with Mrs May not having ‘mentioned that the money was coming from that budget’ when the government announced the bailout.