Hackney Council says “essential maintenance work” on its housing could be put on hold for years if the government refuses to release extra funding for fire safety work.
The Town Hall was responding to a report on sprinklers published last month by the London Assembly Planning Committee, which calls on both Whitehall and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to cough up cash to help councils cope with urgent fire jobs.
The cross-party committee, which scrutinises Khan’s planning strategy, has been assessing whether sprinklers should be mandatory in the capital’s homes in the wake of last year’s Grenfell Tower fire, which left 71 people dead.
Its report, Never Again: Sprinklers as the next step in fire safety, recommends that funding be made available by the Mayor to retrofit the devices in 200 high risk blocks across the capital by 2023.
The Citizen revealed earlier this month that at least 40 per cent of Hackney’s high priority jobs, picked up in fire risk assessments (FRAs), will breach the one-month window recommended by experts.
More than 1,000 urgent fire safety tasks could be outstanding on the anniversary of the Grenfell fire in June.
There are also a further 12,571 “medium priority” recommendations in the FRAs, of which 60 per cent or 7,428 are still outstanding.
A spokesperson for the Town Hall said: “The council continues to address the many recommendations following our fire safety review, and these could cost in the region of £20m for the next year alone.
“This figure is highly likely to continue to rise. The fire safety works will need to be considered alongside the other needs of the housing service and available resources.
“Without additional resources from the government, essential maintenance works to our housing stock will be postponed for a number of years.”
One example of the type of work that could be delayed is “roof replacement”, according to the spokesperson, who also confirmed that emergency repairs “will not be impacted”.
The London Assembly report, along with its call for extra fire safety funding for councils, urges the government to make it compulsory for all new residential blocks over 18 metres tall to be fitted with sprinklers.
Currently, the devices are only mandatory in buildings higher than 30 metres.
Hackney Council welcomed the report’s finding that the “government should be doing more”, but said it has not changed its position on retrofitting sprinklers in its tower blocks – which is to act on expert advice while it awaits the outcomes of the Grenfell Public Inquiry and the Hackitt Review, which is looking into building regulations.
The spokesperson said: “The council has committed to installing sprinklers if recommended to do so by the London Fire Brigade and the council’s independent fire safety advisor.
“On this basis, we have already begun to install sprinklers in one of our high rise blocks and will continue to retrofit sprinklers in other buildings if such advice is given to us.”
The Town Hall revealed in January that it is to install sprinklers in 114 homes at a 19-storey Haggerston tower block following advice from the London Fire Brigade (LFB).
The council said at the time that the “additional safety measure” is being brought in because of the large number of older people living at 355 Queensbridge Road.
The spokesperson added: “The council will continue to ask central government for additional resources to fund the immediate and longer term remedial fire safety work across the council’s housing stock.”
Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville has previously appealed for the government to commit to funding fire safety work nationally, and to establish a new independent institute for fire safety regulation./ 11 April, 2018