Wandsworth urges government to provide fire funding

Wandsworth urges government to provide fire funding

COUNCIL LEADER Ravi Govindia wrote to Chancellor Philip Hammond to ‘request specific financial aid’ for leaseholders in the London borough over sprinkler retrofitting costs.

In a posting on the council’s website, it stated that Mr Govindia’s request was for ‘specific financial aid for Wandsworth leaseholders to help them pay their share of the cost of installing sprinklers in their homes’. In August, the council revealed it would retrofit sprinklers in 99 high rises 10 storeys or over across the borough, with it responsible for 187 in total. These retrofits will serve 6,400 homes, and were said at the time to begin ‘as soon as possible’.

That decision had been made based on advice from London Fire Brigade, so the tallest blocks in the borough will now ‘comply with building safety standards that have applied to all new build high rise blocks since 2007’. In terms of funding, the council had already ‘identified and set aside’ £30m to cover the cost, with council tenants not needing to ‘pay a penny towards the overall bill’. However, leaseholders who have bought homes ‘would be required to pay a modest share of the cost’.

Mr Govindia’s letter to Mr Hammond states: ‘I am writing to you following today’s budget and your very welcome call to all local authorities and housing associations to identify and carry out safety improvements in high-rise buildings as quickly as possible. This is exactly what Wandsworth Council has been doing. The safety of all our tenants and leaseholders is of paramount importance and we have been getting on with the job, moving quickly to identify and set aside £30 million of council resources to pay for vital safety measures such as replacing cladding and installing sprinklers.

‘We have also set up fire watch patrols while these improvements are carried out, adding an extra layer of safety for our tenants. Wandsworth has 99 blocks of 10 storeys or more, more than any borough in London, and I am proud that we are leading the way in ensuring that our residents get the highest levels of protection, especially in the wake of the terrible tragedy and loss of life that occurred at Grenfell Tower.

‘We want to be absolutely certain that every one of our residents who lives in a council block is safe and we will do everything to now make sure that nothing like Grenfell ever happens here. This funding we have provided covers the costs of protecting all tenanted properties but not leasehold properties. Wandsworth, having pioneered right to buy, has over 1,358 leaseholders who would have to contribute towards these safety measures and not all will be able to afford the cost.

‘You have said that you will not allow financial constraints to get in the way of any essential fire safety work, and we would like to request Government support to cover the costs for leaseholders and help ease the financial burden for them.’