A petition calling for the government to put up £1 billion to pay for fire sprinklers across the UK has been delivered to the Treasury ahead of tomorrow’s Budget.
The Labour Party’s ‘Make Homes Safe’ campaign is calling on Chancellor Phillip Hammond to set aside the sum for the retrofitting of sprinklers in all council and housing association tower blocks.
The petition has been signed by over 100,000 people.
After the Grenfell fire in June, the Citizen launched a petition calling for the retrofitting of sprinklers in all Hackney tower blocks taller than 30 metres.
Mayor Philip Glanville responded to the petition in July, saying: “Sprinklers will be fully explored as part of these reviews and we will move to install them if recommended to do so by our independent fire adviser or following advice from the London Fire Brigade.
“In addition we will await with keen interest any interim findings and recommendations from the Public Inquiry into Grenfell and, as we did following the Lakanal House tragedy, respond quickly to them.”
In October, London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton reiterated her support for sprinklers, telling the audience at a fire safety event: “It’s been no secret that London Fire Brigade have been champions of every means to assist people and sprinklers are one of those things. It’s part of a number of measures.
“I’m not saying sprinklers are the panacea that can cure everything but sprinklers in conjunction with other fire suppression and fire detection measures are the key… I’m really keen that we all make sure our voices are heard.”
Hackney MP and shadow home secretary Diane Abbott also issued a call for the retrofitting of sprinklers nationwide, saying the borough she serves is “no exception”.
A spokesperson for Hackney Council this week told the Citizen its position on sprinklers has not changed, but that Mayor Glanville has called for the “appropriateness and effectiveness of retrofitting” them to be explored as part of the Town Hall’s submission to the Grenfell Inquiry.
Darren Martin, spokesperson for Hackney Liberal Democrats, called on the council to “start retrofitting sprinklers straight away”. and seek compensation retroactively should the government change its policy and decide to fund the work.
He said: “We welcome this intervention from the Labour Party nationally. There is clear evidence that sprinklers save lives, which is why we have been calling for them to be retrofitted to all 181 Hackney tower blocks since June.”
He added: “It would be great if the government could stump up all the cash to get sprinklers fitted, but the likelihood is that this may take some time while the Grenfell Inquiry takes place and findings are made public.
“All the while, a measure that we all seem to agree would save lives in the event of a fire is not being put in place by the biggest landlord in our borough.
“Anything that could save lives should not even be a choice, it must happen, and Hackney Council has the responsibility to keep their residents safe and start retrofitting sprinklers straight away.
“Should central government change policy and decide to fund sprinkler installation, then Hackney Council should then seek to be compensated for any work they have already undertaken. Other councils have already gone ahead with a retrofitting programme.”
Hackney Green Party campaigner Alastair Binnie-Lubbock said all new blocks in the borough are fitted with sprinklers, so it is “unfair to deny current residents this potentially crucial safety feature that comes as standard in Hackney’s new flats”.
He added: “It’s important to bear in mind the over 70 dead and hundreds more dislocated and traumatised by the Grenfell disaster. We want to see swift action to make sure residents in Hackney tower blocks are given the protections that Grenfell were denied by their Conservative council.
“We also want to see more accuracy and transparency from the council as their delays, and U-turns on releasing fire safety information have inspired little confidence.”
The Citizen has approached all of Hackney’s main political parties for comment.
More to follow.