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Tories refuse to cough up for fire-safety measures

Town halls have accused the government of refusing to send promised fire safety funds following the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Local authority councillors claimed yesterday that councils are now being forced to pay for essential funding measures, including the installation of sprinklers, from their own diminishing coffers.

Nottingham City Council’s Labour councillor Jane Urquhart, responsible for housing in the borough, said the government had blocked funds for works planned on high rises as they were considered “additional rather than essential.”

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We found that really difficult to understand given that in the refurbishment of the Houses of Parliament sprinklers are considered essential, so we thought it was quite incredible that they were essential for the Houses of Parliament but not essential for residents of high rises.

“Safety must come at the top of the list and the works that we have considered will be done; the impact will be that fewer new homes will be built and our other housing will not have the repairs that it needs.”

Westminster City Council’s Labour opposition leader Adam Hug also said that the local authority is facing similar problems getting money out of Communities Secretary Sajid Javid to pay for sprinklers and removing cladding.

“Ultimately these are things that the London Fire Brigade says have to be done and ultimately the cost is having to be borne by the housing revenue account, which is tenants’ rents and service charge fees,” he said.

“Councils across the country are asking the government for the help that Sajid Javid promised and they are being told: ‘No, only in exceptional circumstances when you literally don’t have the money in any form’.”

Mr Hug said Westminster stood to lose about £20 million to pay for the work, which equates to 100 affordable homes not being built.

Shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne said: “Once again, Sajid Javid is dragging his feet to provide support to local authorities.

“The government knows its failure to review building regulations, and seven years of Tory cuts to local authorities and fire services, have created this crisis.

“Rather than learning from their mistakes, they are starving Labour councils of funds as they work to clear up this mess and keep their residents safe.”

The Department for Communities and Local Government insisted it had not declined any requests for funding but had asked local authorities for more details about their plans.

 

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