Nottingham council criticises government fire safety ‘confusion’
THE COUNCIL accused the government of ‘sending out mixed messages’ on whether it will provide funding for fire safety.
Nottingham City Council stated that following Chancellor Philip Hammond’s budget the other day, in which the only fire safety investment was £28m to help victims of the Grenfell Tower fire, his comments reported included that ‘if any local authority cannot access funding to pay for essential fire safety work, they should contact us immediately’, and that ‘we will not let financial constraints get in the way of essential safety work’.
It responded by noting that on the same day it received a letter from Housing Minister Alok Sharma that stated ‘local authorities should draw on existing resources to implement these measures’, and that the government would only ‘consider the removal of financial constraints for local authorities where these stand in the way of essential work being done’.
He had also previously refused a funding request in September from the council, stating at the time that fire safety measures were ‘additional rather than essential’, with costs to be undertaken by the authority ‘without any further financial assistance’, despite – as the council pointed out – London Fire Brigade commissioner Dany Cotton stating that sprinkler retrofitting ‘can’t be optional or a “nice to have”’.
Jane Urquhart, portfolio holder for planning housing and heritage, stated: ‘The Government is sending out mixed messages on this issue. On the one hand, the Chancellor has said they will not let financial constraints get in the way of essential safety work. But on the other, the Housing Minister is saying that local authorities should draw on existing resources and has already turned down our request for funding seemingly because the installation of sprinklers is somehow not essential despite expert advice to the contrary.
‘In Nottingham we are pressing ahead with an £8.4 million programme of fire safety work in the city and the Minister has praised the proactive approach we have taken. However, despite us making clear that funding this work will mean other planned housing schemes will have to be reduced or delayed, the Government has so far refused to help. We urge the Government to put its money where its mouth is and provide the additional funding we need for this essential work so we don’t have to take money out of other vital housing schemes.’
Yesterday, Wandsworth Council also sent a letter to the Chancellor to ‘request specific financial aid’ for its leaseholders over sprinkler retrofitting costs. Councils across the country made previous attempts to ask the government for funding work including sprinkler retrofitting, with prior government confusion arising from those requests.