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Tower block fire safety in Brent could cost leaseholders £6,000 each

PUBLISHED: 16:06 15 November 2017 | UPDATED: 16:06 15 November 2017

Cathedral Walk, one of Brent Council's 37 blocks (Brent Council)

Cathedral Walk, one of Brent Council's 37 blocks (Brent Council)

Archant

Council chiefs in Brent are to install fire safety measures across its 37 blocks that could cost leaseholders £6,000 each.

Brent Council cabinet members approved a fire safety improvement programme which includes sprinklers, smoke detectors and fire alarms in its high-rises, estimated to cost £14m, on Monday night.

Of the 37 blocks in Brent owned by the council, 14 of them are 12 storeys or more, which could be legally required to have sprinklers in the future.

Approximately 20 per cent of the blocks inhabitants are leaseholders and the council has seen from that pool of housing income there is £2.8m of ‘recoverable costs’ which equates to around £6k per leaseholder.

Following a full council meeting in July to discuss the scheme, letters were sent to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) for financial help but it has so far refused.

Cllr Muhammed Butt said: “When we first looked at this we did write to Sajid Javid MP pointing out that we want to make sure all our residents feel safe in their homes.

“The response was disappointing. We want to ensure all residents we are taking fire safety seriously.”

A Brent Council spokesman said: “The Grenfell Tower fire showed that when it comes to fire safety, ‘good enough’ is no longer good enough, which is why despite all of the council’s tower blocks being up to current standards,

“Brent Council took the unanimous decision to roll out these fire safety improvements to ensure that everything that can be done on fire safety, is done.

“Since then, we have been lobbying the government for extra money to pay for these works and have also asked, in case they can’t or won’t provide the money, for the freedom to find the money ourselves through borrowing.

“So far the government is refusing to budge, meaning that we have to fund these works from the housing account, which has to finance all works to council properties. If leaseholders didn’t contribute then there would be less money in the account for other works, however it will take some time to specify the works, and we will be consulting throughout the process.

“We will also be keeping up our pressure on the government. How can it be that under law, the government insist that new tower blocks over 30 metres must have sprinklers, yet older, existing blocks don’t require them as they are ‘to standard’?

“It smacks of utter hypocrisy and there being one rule for the rich and another for the poor.”

A DCLG spokesman said: “Building owners are responsible for ensuring their buildings are safe for residents and we expect them to fund fire safety measures.

“Councils should contact DCLG to discuss their position if they have any concerns about funding fire safety works.

“Ministers have been clear we will consider financial flexibilities for councils who need to undertake essential fire safety work to make a building safe.”

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