William Eichler 03 January 2018

Council warns of ‘unprecedented’ fire safety funding gap

Croydon Council has called on the Government to provide financial support to authorities struggling to pay for necessary tower block fire safety measures in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy.

The London borough, the first to retrofit sprinklers in its tower blocks after a fire killed 71 people in Grenfell Tower last June, has warned Whitehall that councils face an ‘unprecedented funding gap’ when it comes to installing safety measures.

Croydon has requested a face-to-face meeting with the housing minister Alok Sharma MP to discuss the ‘long-term financial burden’ of implementing its £10m sprinkler programme without funding help.

The council claims the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has twice refused to either contribute towards Croydon’s sprinkler programme or relax council borrowing powers.

Croydon’s deputy leader and cabinet member for homes, regeneration and planning Cllr Alison Butler has written to the DCLG a third time requesting money and warning that the situation will only worsen if the Government continues to refuse funding.

‘Croydon’s fire safety programme will cost £10m from our Housing Revenue Account, placing a significant long-term financial burden on other ring-fenced council projects,’ said Cllr Butler.

‘Croydon may be the first council to invest in urgent measures post-Grenfell, but we recognise that others have far more homes. In London alone, many are also still tackling cladding issues under your department’s instruction.

‘Therefore, the full cost will not become clear for months to come, if not years.

‘Without your help to provide extra funding, local authorities like Croydon that take the initiative on post-Grenfell fire safety in both council and private housing face an unprecedented funding gap.’

A DCLG spokesman said: ‘While building owners are responsible for funding fire safety measures in their properties, we have been clear councils should contact us if they have any concerns about funding as we will consider financial flexibilities for essential work to make a building safe.

‘We have received additional information in a letter from Croydon Council and we will respond in due course.’

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