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Warning of 'unprecedented' funding woes over sprinkler costs

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Croydon LBC has asked the government for a third time for financial assistance in retrofitting sprinkler systems to 26 of its tallest tower blocks.

Croydon’s deputy leader wrote to the housing minister Alok Sharma on Tuesday requesting a meeting over the “long-term financial burden” attached to its £10m project.

Alison Butler (Lab) wrote: “Without your help to provide extra funding, local authorities like Croydon that take the initiative on post-Grenfell fire safety in both council and private housing face an unprecedented funding gap.”

Cllr Butler, also Croydon’s member for housing, said the government’s requirements for extra fire safety checks was placing extra financial stress on local government, adding that guidance was needed over the definition of “essential” works.

Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, said after the Grenfell fire the government would help pay for “essential” works councils could not afford to do themselves. LGC previously reported how DCLG had not yet provided any financial assistance to any councils despite requests from more than 30.

Then in the chancellor’s Budget Philip Hammond said “financial constraints” should not impede “essential” fire safety improvement works.

“If any local authority cannot access funding to pay for essential fire safety work, they should contact us immediately,” Mr Hammond said. “As I have said before, we will not let financial constraints get in the way of essential safety work.”

London Fire Brigade commissioner Dany Cotton said in September that fire sprinklers should be considered “essential”.

A Department for Communities & Local Government spokesman said: “While building owners are responsible for funding fire safety measures in their properties, we have been clear councils should contact us if they have any concerns about funding as we will consider financial flexibilities for essential work to make a building safe,” the spokesperson said..

“We have received additional information in a letter from Croydon Council and we will respond in due course.”

Croydon’s previous two requests received replies within six weeks respectively.

Cllr Butler, also Croydon’s member for housing, said the government’s requirements for extra checks over fire safety was placing extra financial stress on councils.

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