Source: Labour Party UK
Commenting, Sarah Jones MP, Shadow Minister for Policing and Fire, said:
“The Government has failed in its first duty to keep people safe. More than three years after the Grenfell fire, tens of thousands of people across the country are still stuck living in unsafe blocks.
“Labour’s amendment to the Fire Safety Bill was an opportunity to start to put this right, yet the Tories chose to reject it. This failure to act is incompetent and it is dangerous – the Government, and the local Tory MP for Kensington, must act now to avoid another deadly fire.”
Full text of letter to James Brokenshire and Stephen Greenhalgh
Dear James and Stephen,
We are writing to you to raise our deep concern about the slow pace of improvements on fire safety and prevention in high-rise buildings across the UK.
Over three years on from the Grenfell tower fire, tens of thousands of people are still living in homes with ACM cladding on the outsides of their buildings, and many more are stuck in buildings with other kinds of flammable cladding materials. The victims and survivors of Grenfell are still waiting for justice.
The Government deadlines of 2019 for social sector blocks and June 2020 for private sector blocks to be made safe were both missed. Over 80% of private sector residential buildings and nearly half of social sector residential buildings wrapped in ACM cladding have not had the cladding removed and replaced.
The findings from the Government’s data collection exercise on external wall systems in high rise buildings have still not been published, so the Government are unable to say how many buildings are covered with dangerous non-ACM cladding. On the audit, Inside Housing has said in January 2020, out of 5,320 blocks over 18 metres, there were still 3,708 blocks unaccounted for.
As the Government are consulting on extending the ban on combustible materials, including lowering the 18 metres height threshold to 11 metres, it is estimated that a further 100,000 buildings will come into the threshold of the ban.
The lack of clear information from the Government on the number of unsafe blocks and the uncertainty on the kinds of flammable materials present, makes the vital prevention and inspection work of our fire and rescue services much more difficult to undertake.
In May 2020, Minister Stephen Greenhalgh provided a “rough figure” of 11,300 buildings over 18m in height with non-ACM cladding, with “around 1,700” of those being at high risk. The lead civil servant for the Building Safety Programme said the total cost of remediation was roughly estimated between £3bn and £3.5bn, meaning that the £1bn Building Safety Fund is only likely to cover less than a third of non-ACM cladding costs. The Government’s latest figures show that there were 2,784 registrations for the fund, which is over 60% higher than the figure provided in May. A recent report in The Sunday Times says that the total remediation costs could be four times the money available.
At every stage, the Government’s progress on making buildings safe and reforming building safety regulation has been shamefully slow. The Government have continuously pushed back on their promises, while tens of thousands of people across the country are stuck living in unsafe flats. We urge you to take much swifter action to speed up the remediation, data collection and consultation processes as part of the Building Safety Programme.
In October 2019, the Government promised to implement the Grenfell Tower Phase One Report recommendations’ “in full” and “without delay”. Yet the Government’s first piece of primary legislation on fire safety did not include provisions for any of the measures called for by the Inquiry. Labour’s amendment to the Fire Safety Bill was an opportunity for the Government to honour that promise, yet the Government chose not to support it.
After voting against Labour’s amendment, you said that alongside the Building Safety Bill, the fire safety consultation includes “proposals to…implement the Grenfell Tower Phase One Recommendations” but still no dates have been provided for when they will be put into law.
We are calling on you to now urgently set out the Government’s timelines to implement the fire safety measures recommended by the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.
Sarah Jones MP, Shadow Minister for Policing and Fire
Mike Amesbury MP, Shadow Housing and Planning Minister
Dr Fiona Twycross, Deputy Mayor of London for Fire and Resilience, Lead Member for Fire, LGA Labour Group
Cllr Michael Payne, Deputy Leader of LGA Labour Group, Chair of Nottinghamshire and City of Nottingham Fire & Rescue Authority
Cllr Brian Kenny, Vice Chair of Merseyside Fire & Rescue Authority
Cllr Les Byrom, Chair of Merseyside Fire & Rescue Authority
Cllr James Roberts, Vice Chair of Merseyside Fire & Rescue Authority
Cllr Frank De Molfetta, Chair of Lancashire Combined Fire Authority
Cllr Bob Rudd, Chair of Cheshire Fire Authority
Cllr Paul Kirton, Chair of Cleveland Fire Authority
Cllr Darren O’Donovan, Chair of West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority
Cllr Brenda Massey, Vice Chair of Avon Fire Authority
Cllr Steve Marshall-Clarke, Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service
Cllr Sian Timoney, Lead Member of National Joint Council for Local Fire Authority & Rescue Services
Cllr Greg Brackenridge, Chair of West Midlands Fire & Rescue Authority
Cllr Tony Taylor, Chair of Tyne and Wear Fire & Rescue Authority
Cllr Karen Kilgour, Member of Tyne and Wear Fire & Rescue Authority
Cllr Robert Taylor, Chair of South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority
Cllr Nikki Hennessy, Member of the LGA Fire Services Management Committee