Almost two years after the Grenfell fire tragedy, several leading local government figures are calling for the government to pay for sprinklers to be installed in all council and housing association-owned residential buildings above 18 metres.
A letter to the prime minister, drawn up by Birmingham City Council’s cabinet member for homes and neighbourhoods Sharon Thompson (Lab) and signed by senior politicians from 14 other councils and the Greater London Authority, calls on the government to pay heed to a recommendation by the Commons housing, communities and local government committee last June for such action to be taken.
It claims that there is now “growing support” for the retrofitting of sprinklers, which has backing from the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety and Rescue Group, National Fire Chiefs Council, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Fire Brigades Union, the Association of British Insurers, the Fire Protection Association, London Fire Brigade and the Fire Sector Federation.
A number of councils have either consulted their residents or drawn-up programmes to retrofit sprinklers, and such work is already underway or has been completed by some councils, including Poole BC and South Tyneside Council.
“Clearly this work comes with a sizeable price-tag,” said the letter, “but our tenants and residents have a fundamental right to feel safe in their own homes and, in line with recommendations from both the Hackitt Report and Government, we have listened to their concerns.”
Signatories include the leaders of Leeds, Newcastle and Nottingham city councils and Liverpool City Council mayor Joe Anderson. Tony Dicicco, Solihull MBC’s cabinet member for environment & housing is the only Conservative politician to sign the letter.
Birmingham has committed to spending more than £54m in three years on fire safety in its 213 high-rise tower blocks.
Cllr Thompson said: “In a time of austerity, when local authorities across the country are and having budgets cut and are need to make some really tough financial choices, we need government to work with us and enable the recommendations put forward by experts to be implemented for the safety of citizens across the country.”
Alison Butler (Lab), Croydon LBC’s deputy leader and cabinet member for homes, said that the council has nearly finished retrofitting sprinklers in more than 1,250 high-rise homes, costing £10m that had already been allocated for other services.
“It’s time for the government to stop ignoring councils’ pleas for help and put its money where its mouth is,” she said.