Following the appalling tragedy of so many lives lost at Grenfell House, I had a meeting at Southwark Town Hall with Southwark Council to review fire safety in my constituency of Camberwell and Peckham.
There are 54 council blocks in my constituency which are over 7 floors. The council, as landlord, has responsibility for the safety of residents in those blocks. There are other blocks over 7 floors which are housing association or student accommodation. Though the landlord has principle responsibility in those blocks, the council also has responsibility for enforcing building regulations.
The council rightly seeks to ensure the highest possible standards of fire safety
*that requires the most proactive and professional supervision of refurbishment contracts
*regular fire inspections
*enforcement of fire safety clauses in tenancy agreements - such as not storing furniture on balconies
*being alert to any concerns from tenants about fire safety
Since the inquest in 2013 and prosecution of the council in 2017 after the Lakanal House fire in 2009, the council have, rightly, been taking a particularly proactive approach to fire safety. And after the Grenfell Tower fire the Cabinet member for housing – Cllr Stephanie Cryan - wrote to tenants informing them of the council’s programme of works to improve fire safety in tower blocks, telling them who to contact if they have concerns and reminding them to avoid creating fire hazards.
* The council are carrying out fire safety inspections on all high-rise blocks, schools and libraries.
* At my request the council have agreed to establish a “real time” dashboard of information featuring every tower block in my constituency with updated information as to: if there’s cladding, if so whether it’s been tested and what was the result of the testing, when last refurbished, when last fire inspected, any fire safety complaints from tenants. In the first instance this will be available to myself and local councillors and subsequently to be put online and made available for the public. This will enable me to monitor in real time council work on fire safety in tower blocks in my constituency.
* The council have agreed to invite the representatives of tenants and residents associations of council blocks over seven stories in Camberwell and Peckham to a meeting to hear any of their concerns and update them on safety measures - at the Employment Centre on Peckham Road in the next fortnight.
The 3 MPs have decided to write to the government:
*reiterating our protest about the cuts to the councils budget
*reminding them that the restrictions on rent rises further undermines the council’s ability to pay for maintenance and improvement
*pointing out that the additional post Grenfell tower checks will require extra resources which the government should make available to the council
*insisting that the cost of further checks and fire safety improvements must not be at the expense of maintenance for existing tenants or postponement of necessary upgrading of kitchens, bathrooms etc. for which tenants have been waiting
*to insist that leaseholders should not have to be charged for a share of the fire upgrading which might be necessary. They have already been paying for capital improvements and additional obligations would be unfair on them
Since the Grenfell Tower fire I’ve received 11 emails concerning fire safety. 9 in respect of tower blocks, 1 about escape routes and 1 about rubbish outside a stairwell.