SPRINKLERS TO SAVE MPs ..as councils still wait for cash to fit them in tower blocks
£1.3M ON SPRINKLERS FOR MPs
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.”
WHO ESCAPED GRENFELL INFERNO
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