Cash-strapped local councils balk at multimillion-pound fire-safety upgrades as government rules out additional funding
Grenfell fallout The Local Government Association has said that local councils cannot afford the substantial fire-safety upgrades to social housing recommended in the wake of the Grenfell fire. With some local authorities at risk of technical insolvency following swingeing budget cuts, they have now been instructed by the government to implement multimillion-pound changes. Communities secretary Sajid Javid has told councils that the government will provide no extra funding for expensive measures such as the installation of sprinklers and replacement of unsafe cladding and insulation on tower blocks.
The mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, told the Economist in January that even if he closed all 19 libraries and nine sports centres in the city, abandoned maintenance of of its 140 parks, halted all road repairs and street cleaning and switched off 50,000 streetlights, he would be still 22 short of the savings imposed by budget cuts planned by 2020. It is also clear that councils cannot afford to carry out this work. Local Government Association The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) reportedly sent a letter to local authorities in July saying that our expectation is that, as a building owner responsible for your tenants, you will fund measures designed to make a building fire safe, and will draw on your existing resources to do so.
30m per council A source has told the Financial Times that the bills could run into tens of millions. Some councils have estimated the costs to total an average of around 30m per council. The Local Government Association, which represents more than 400 English and Welsh local authorities, has issued a statement saying: It is clear that the current building regulation system has failed. It is also clear that councils cannot afford to carry out this work. Simon Blackburn, chair of the LGA s safer and stronger communities board, said the government should meet meet the exceptional cost to councils of removing and replacing cladding and insulation on high-rise blocks. With the government under fire for neglecting fire safety including how housing ministers sat on a report urging action over high-rise blocks Javid sought to place much of the blame squarely at the feet of local authorities in a speech on 4 July. Speaking to survivors, people in the local community, and people in tower blocks around the country, one thing is abundantly clear local government is facing a looming crisis of trust, he said.
The DCLG has said: We ve been clear with councils and housing associations that we expect them to do whatever local fire services and experts say is necessary to make residential buildings safe.
We will ensure that where local fire services have advised works are essential to ensure the fire safety of a building, current restrictions on the use of financial resources will not prevent them going ahead.