Labour have claimed that 96% of high rise council blocks in London are without a sprinkler. Research compiled by Shadow Housing Minister Sarah Jones MP found not a single council request for support has been accepted by the Government.
A series of fire experts including the National Fire Chiefs Council, London Fire Brigade Commissioner, and Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service have called for the retrofitting of sprinklers in tall blocks, says a Labour press release.
“Councils and social housing tenants have been betrayed by this Government who promised to do whatever it took after Grenfell to make tower blocks safe, and has since backtracked.
“It’s simply contradictory for Ministers to say that sprinklers aren’t essential in older buildings while requiring them for new buildings. It creates a two-tier system which disproportionately impacts social housing tenants. Why should certain people be entitled to safer housing than others?
Sarah Jones MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister
“Sprinklers are just one part of the fire safety mix, but they are proven to work. That’s why Labour is calling for a Government Fire Safety Fund to help councils with sprinklers and other important fire safety work.”
The government have argued these points though by saying that they have been working with councils and fire departments following the Grenfell tragedy. They claim that Dame Judith Hackitt points out in her review of building regulations and fire safety, no single fire safety measure – including sprinklers- can be seen as a panacea.
Minister of State for Housing, Kit Malthouse MP said:
“Since the tragic events at Grenfell Tower, we have taken steps to ensure the immediate safety of all high rise buildings.
“We are going to fully fund the removal and replacement of unsafe cladding, like the type used on Grenfell Tower, on high rise buildings owned by councils and housing associations, estimated at £400 million.
Kit Malthouse MP, Minister of State for Housing,
“Sprinklers can be effective, but they are one of many fire safety measures that can be adopted. If local authorities have concerns about the costs of essential fire safety measures, they should contact us to discuss their position and any flexibilities we can offer.”
The government also said that they wrote to all local authorities and housing associations in 2013 asking them to consider a Coroner’s report recommendation that said they should consider retro-fitting sprinklers in existing high-rise residential buildings.
Labour have claimed though that “not a single council request for support has been accepted by the Government”.