Council’s safety programme under ‘review’ after Government refuses to stump up
Council appears to change its position after fire safety funding rejection letter from housing minister
06 October, 2017 — By Tom Foot
Cladding coming down on the ‘Little Venice estate’ last month
THE housing minister has told Westminster Council that the government will not foot the bill for new sprinkler systems being fitted to its tower blocks post-Grenfell.
Alok Sharma has told the council that its programme of works, which has already begun on the “Little Venice estate”, does not meet its “exceptional circumstance” financial criteria.
The city council said it was now reviewing its fire safety programme across the borough which included plans to fit sprinklers in all its towers.
Westminster Labour group leader Adam Hug said: “Westminster wrote to request financial assistance, either direct financial support or removal of restrictions, and Sharma wrote back to say their case didn’t meet their exceptional circumstance criteria.”
Labour estimates that the full cost of implementing fire safety measures in taller council blocks across the city, and removing dangerous cladding from the towers on the Warwick and Brindley estates, could run to £20million. At the moment this will have to be paid out of Westminster Council’s housing revenue account. Cllr Hug said: “Yet again it will be council tenants and people who desperately need new homes who are left to pay the price of this Tory government washing their hands of their responsibilities.”
In June, in the wake of the Grenfell disaster in neighbouring Kensington, the council’s housing chief Cllr Rachael Robathan said in a statement: “We are confident that our blocks are safe, we will be retrofitting sprinklers in blocks over thirty metres as an additional safety measure.”
But this week a council spokesman said: “Like all other local authorities, we are in ongoing discussions with the Department for Communities and Local Government about a range of fire safety-related issues. We will be retro- fitting sprinklers in the Little Venice tower blocks and reviewing other blocks.”