Schools fire safety report still awaited

Schools fire safety report still awaited

SIX MONTHS after a whistleblower revealed ‘dozens’ of fire safety violations at the Edinbarnet Primary School in West Dunbartonshire, reports on schools across the region are still not ready.

In AprilClydebank Post and a whistleblower revealed ‘dozens’ of fire safety violations at the Edinbarnet Primary School and an education centre in Clydebank. The ‘damning assessments’ revealed issues such as ‘alarms and detectors dangling from walls, exposed wiring, and incomplete evacuation notices’. The whistleblower was concerned that the reports ‘have been buried within West Dunbartonshire Council [WDC]’ and hidden from councillors.

The newspaper reported that a ‘unanimous emergency motion’ was passed by the council, with councillors calling for ‘assurances on the safety issues within days before schools return’. The Post’s whistleblower leaked another 31 reports in addition to the two previously reported, with a total of ‘more than 800’ safety failures, and ‘top-level meetings’ took place between staff, councillors, MPs and MSPs.

Council leader Jonathan McColl had ‘specifically’ asked at a meeting if a report relating to ‘concerns raised about fire alarms’ in its primary schools was a safety issue. He was ‘twice assured’ by Angela Wilson, the strategic director of transformation and public service reform, that it was a procurement issue. The whistleblower added that an anonymous letter to chief executive Joyce White ‘alleged ongoing issues with faults and non-compliance with fire alarm systems’.

This prompted an independent ‘asset register and system condition survey’ on the council’s properties, and more in depth surveys. The council later passed an emergency motion on the failures found, with WDC insisting buildings were safe, and that the reports – prepared between September and December 2017 – came from a ‘procurement exercise’.

Dumbarton Reporter has now reported that the investigation into the failures ‘still isn’t finished nearly six months on’, with the whistleblower having ‘gone silent’ since the initial reports. An audit committee meeting this week will also be told that a plan to ‘raise awareness’ of the council’s whistleblowing policy ‘will start in coming weeks so staff can raise concerns’, with ‘renewed attention’ given to the issue in a separate internal audit report.

Regarding the fire concerns, this report states that ‘further allegations were received on this matter on April 5, 2018 which required to be investigated. Investigations are being finalised’, and on being asked if there were any updates on the fire safety issues, and whether the final report would be made public, a council spokeswoman stated that ‘the report is still being finalised and it would be inappropriate to comment at this stage’.