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Social Housing Speed Read – No direct funding for fire safety works

The Government have stated they will allow flexibility in borrowing and grant power to switch funding from general funds to pay for fire safety work, but will not provide councils with direct funding.

Following the Grenfell fire tragedy attention has focussed on how fire safe high rise buildings are. Local authorities and councils are tasked with assessing what needs to be done to ensure safety. Carrying out works will come at a cost and the funding position was revealed by Sajid Javid, Communities Secretary, during a meeting with members of the Communities and Local Government Committee (CLGC) last Wednesday afternoon.

So what works will get funded?

The Government has said that councils with concerns about “funding essential fire safety measures” should request financial assistance. However, speaking on Wednesday, Mr Javid said that what is “essential work” is a decision to be made by the “legal owners of the buildings [because] they are responsible for keeping them safe”.

Helen Hayes, Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood stated that the Government seemed to be making this decision themselves. She referred to a letter from Nottingham City Council sent to the Government last month asking for funding for sprinklers, which the Government rejected for saying they were “additional and not essential”.

How essential are sprinklers?

London Fire Brigade Commissioner Dany Cotton has called for all residential high rise tower blocks to be fitted with the sprinklers. She said that they are the only fire safety system “which detects and suppresses a fire, as well as raising the alarm.” The London Fire Brigade Commissioner also stated that sprinklers save lives and they should not be optional but something that “must happen”.

Inside Housing is running a campaign in light of the Grenfell tragedy called the ‘Never Again Campaign’. They are calling on the Government to fully fund the fitting of sprinklers in high rise buildings and suggest ways Landlords and the Government can ensure a tragedy like Grenfell or the Lakanal house fire never happen again.

Fire safety regulations

Dany Cotton, speaking at the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) fire safety event on Thursday morning requested more clarity over fire safety regulations, in particular the overlap between the Housing and Planning Act 2016 and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order.

During his meeting with the CLGC on Wednesday, Sajid Javid admitted the regulations were not clear and a review of them was not executed quickly enough after the Lakanal House fire.Nick Coombe from London Fire Brigades fire safety regulation management team has voiced that in addition to unclear fire regulations, some fire risk assessments are not detailed enough and some paid fire risk assessors may not be “good enough”.

If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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