SPRIN­KLERS TO SAVE MPs ..as coun­cils still wait for cash to fit them in tower blocks


Sunday Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - Front Page - EXCLUSIVE BY KEIR MUDIE Deputy Po­lit­i­cal Editor FULL STORY: PAGES 4&5

MPs and peers will be pro­tected by a £1.3mil­lion sprin­kler sys­tem – while coun­cil tower blocks have noth­ing.

The sum is part of a West­min­ster re­fit. But de­spite the Gren­fell Tower fire which killed at least 71, no Gov­ern­ment cash has been handed to high-rise flats na­tion­wide.

A Gren­fell sur­vivor said: “I’m dis­gusted.”

GREN­FELL Tower vic­tims hit out yes­ter­day over the Gov­ern­ment’s “shame­ful” plan to spend £1.3mil­lion on sprin­klers in Par­lia­ment – while tower block res­i­dents are left fear­ing for their lives.

Hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple are liv­ing in high rise blocks main­tained by cash-strapped lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

Some coun­cils say they have been told there is NO gov­ern­ment cash avail­able for sprin­klers which would save lives.

A mother who lost her home in the Gren­fell blaze, which killed at least 71 peo­ple, said she was “dis­gusted”. Labour said it was shame­ful and wants the Gov­ern­ment to set aside £1bil­lion to retro­fit tower blocks with sprin­klers.

Jeremy Cor­byn told the Sun­day Mir­ror: “We know sprin­klers save lives. The life of a tower block res­i­dent is worth just as much as the life of an MP or peer.

“If it’s worth pro­tect­ing those who work in West­min­ster then it must be worth pro­tect­ing res­i­dents of tower blocks. The Gov­ern­ment must learn the les­sons of Gren­fell.

“I urge the Chan­cel­lor to set aside funds in the Bud­get to in­stall sprin­klers, make homes safe and save lives.”

His com­ments were echoed by He­len Ge­bremeskel, who lived in Gren­fell for 20 years. She was on the 21st floor with daugh­ter Lulya, 12, when fire broke out.


He­len said: “My daugh­ter and I just about es­caped with our lives. We lost dear friends in the in­ferno.

“I am dis­gusted the Tory Gov­ern­ment can find money to retro­fit sprin­klers in the Palace of West­min­ster but won’t fund lo­cal coun­cils to retro­fit sprin­klers in or­di­nary so­cial hous­ing high rise blocks around the coun­try.

“All lives mat­ter. All should be pro­tected. Our safety is not some­thing to play with. If it goes wrong you end up with tragedies like Gren­fell.

“The Gov­ern­ment is on full no­tice of the ap­palling risk they are tak­ing with the lives of or­di­nary fam­i­lies.”

Emo­tions run high among lo­cals as the charred tower scars the land­scape in North Kens­ing­ton, Lon­don. Res­cue teams are still search­ing the tower and the death toll could rise above 80.

At Par­lia­ment, mean­while, the planned £1.3mil­lion sprin­kler sys­tem is part of a £118mil­lion fire safety pack­age within a £4BIL­LION re­fur­bish­ment.

Shadow hous­ing min­is­ter John Healey said: “Gren­fell Tower was a na­tional dis­as­ter that de­mands na­tional gov­ern­ment re­sponds, but min­is­ters have re­fused to fund any es­sen­tial fire safety work needed on other high-rise blocks.

“It’s shame­ful that min­is­ters are happy to spend over £100mil­lion on mak­ing Par­lia­ment fire safe but won’t do the same for so­cial ten­ants in tower blocks.

“The Chan­cel­lor must set aside money needed to retro­fit sprin­kler sys­tems in all high-rise so­cial hous­ing blocks.”

Ear­lier this year re­search from In­side Hous­ing maga- zine showed the sums Par­lia­ment had set aside for fire safety. Doc­u­ments from the orig­i­nal ten­der re­veal the state-of-the-art high­pres­sure sprin­kler sys­tem.

But coun­cils na­tion­wide re­port the Gov­ern­ment is re­fus­ing to re­lease funds to im­prove safety in tower blocks.

In an in­ter­view last month Com­mu­ni­ties Min­is­ter Sa­jid Javid re­fused four times to con­firm the Gov­ern­ment would pay to retro­fit sprin­klers.

And Alok Sharma, a

hous­ing min­is­ter, de­clined Not­ting­ham City Coun­cil’s plea for £6mil­lion to pro­vide sprin­klers in 13 tow­ers. He told the coun­cil: “The fire safety mea­sures you out­line are ad­di­tional rather than es­sen­tial.”

Jane Urquhart, port­fo­lio holder for hous­ing at Not­ting­ham Coun­cil, said: “It’s frankly dis­grace­ful that hav­ing made a clear com­mit­ment im­me­di­ately postGren­fell that money would be no bar­rier to en­sur­ing high rise safety, Sa­jid Javid is now ex­pect­ing coun­cils that are reel­ing from his own Gov­ern­ment’s cuts to find the funds them­selves.

“De­spite this shame­ful Gov­ern­ment po­si­tion, we have de­cided to press ahead with an £8.4mil­lion pro­gramme of sprin­kler in­stal­la­tions and other safety mea­sures in 13 high rise blocks. Not­ting­ham Fire and Res­cue Ser­vice are clear that sprin­klers save lives and re­duce in­juries, pro­tect fire­fight­ers who at­tend in­ci­dents and re­duce the amount of dam­age to both prop­erty and the en­vi­ron­ment from fire. I would call that ‘es­sen­tial,’ even if Sa­jid Javid doesn’t.

“We take our ten­ants’ safety – and feel­ing of safety – very se­ri­ously. It’s a pity this Gov­ern­ment ap­pears not to.”

Last month it was re­ported that West­min­ster Coun­cil sub­mit­ted a £20mil­lion re­quest for sprin­klers in six tower blocks – but was also turned down.

Labour has launched a cam­paign – supported by the Mir­ror – to en­sure sprin­klers are fit­ted to all coun­cil and hous­ing

as­so­ci­a­tion blocks, start­ing with build­ings 10 storeys or higher. Mr Cor­byn says only two per cent of the blocks have sprin­kler sys­tems, de­spite re­search show­ing they “ex­tin­guish or con­tain fires in 99 per cent of cases”.

The Labour leader said in a speech on Thurs­day: “The Gov­ern­ment is fail­ing to learn the les­sons from this tragedy. Gren­fell was an en­tirely avoid­able hu­man dis­as­ter that must not be re­peated.”

Mr Cor­byn also re­ferred to a re­port re­leased in 2013 into the 2009 Lakanal

Gov­ern­ment is tak­ing an ap­palling risk with the lives of or­di­nary fam­i­lies...


House fire in Cam­ber­well, South Lon­don. Six peo­ple died and au­thor­i­ties were crit­i­cised over safety mea­sures. Mr Cor­byn added: “Two Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ments failed to act on the coro­ner’s re­port. We said, after the dread­ful fire at Lakanal House, we would never al­low any­thing sim­i­lar to hap­pen again. And yet, here we are – eight years later – after an even worse avoid­able fire.”

In the wake of the re­lease of the so-called Par­adise Pa­pers, Mr Cor­byn also urged the Chan­cel­lor to take ac­tion on tax avoid­ance to en­sure pub­lic ser­vices were funded prop­erly. He said: “The Gov­ern­ment must get its act to­gether, take on the tax avoiders and put the bil­lions of pounds that is be­ing taken from the pock­ets of the Bri­tish peo­ple back into the pub­lic ser­vices and safe homes we all so des­per­ately need.”

The Lon­don Fire Bri­gade has long cam­paigned for sprin­klers to be fit­ted in tower blocks and pub­lic build­ings.

Speak­ing after Gren­fell, Lon­don Fire Com­mis­sioner Dany Cot­ton said: “Sprin­klers are the only sys­tem that de­tects a fire, sup­presses it and raises the alarm. My pri­or­ity is to save lives but I can also make an eco­nomic case for sprin­klers.

“It costs £1,500 to £2,500 to retro­fit a flat, while the cost of re­fur­bish­ing a onebed­room flat after a fire is about £77,000.”

A spokesman for the Depart­ment for Com­mu­ni­ties and Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment said: “Where coun­cils be­lieve any fire safety mea­sure is es­sen­tial they will be of­fered sup­port and should take any nec­es­sary ac­tion to pro­tect their ten­ants.

“We’ve been clear that where a lo­cal authority has con­cerns about fund­ing es­sen­tial fire safety mea­sures, they should con­tact us as soon as pos­si­ble to dis­cuss their po­si­tion.”


SLAMMED Tory min­is­ter Sa­jid Javid

TOMB: Gren­fell Tower

HIGH-RISE HOR­ROR GREN­FELL ES­CAPE He­len and Lulya, 12 SUN­DAY 12.11.2017 Fire en­gulfed Gren­fell Tower MPS WILL BE SAFE Sprin­klers cost £1.3m

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