Jackie Pemberton: H&F Council must stop shooting the messenger on fire safety

A guest post from Jackie Pemberton.

For some weeks I have been chasing up a copy of a Fire Risk Assessment for one of the tower blocks in our borough where residents were assured that there were current Fire Risk Assessments in place and that the blocks had been deemed safe. Other information seemed to indicate that this was not the case and as a result of this information, I attended a meeting held for this block (meetings of which I am not now welcome it seems for speaking the truth).

Despite being told previously that FRAs should not have to go to freedom of information, and were available electronically, suddenly I was coming up against a brick wall in trying to obtain a copy of something I believe should be available to all residents on request – it’s called TRANSPARENCY.

Where was the transparency and resident involvement I had heard about so many times in meetings I had attended?

I was becoming more and more concerned at the obvious barriers in my receiving this  information requested – this ranged  from emails being ignored, to officers saying they were about to go into a meeting, to being told that the officer concerned was ‘too busy’ and different dates for dealing with this being given, despite it being a five minute job to send electronically.  The more barriers I came across the more I felt the need to find out why there was so much resistance with no attempt to putting a very concerned resident’s mind at rest on this horrific subject of fire health and safety.

When I found out that another resident had requested a copy of the same FRA, some time after my own request, and actually sent a copy, this naturally outraged me.

This resident, like myself, looked through documents and saw what I did, a lot of mistakes and discrepancies but unlike me, this person had access to those at the top – why – because they were a trusted member of a TRA committee and so had exclusive means of addressing their concerns – clearly the concerns and worries of those not in the same club do not matter to the same degree, despite the fact that the evidence and information was  gathered by others not of this exclusive club.

The story goes like this: Residents are told they are safe and have nothing to worry about, not once but several times; information opposing this view is proffered and many people raise their concerns; residents are still told they are safe despite reports saying this may not be the full story.

Residents still object and two letters go out in one day – one advising that all of the blocks on this estate are safe (this letter received in the morning) and another letter sent to the residents of said estate in the afternoon suggesting that they may not be so safe after all, nothing to worry about, no evidence yet, but just in case we are not taking any chances basically and action is taken to reassure the residents…

The latest result is that the FRA information I am waiting on with two weeks left to go for the outcome, will prove to be totally irrelevant as the current Fire Risk Assessments have been found to contain errors – not surprising really since both with my own block and the other block, the very first page shows discrepancies before you even start reading the rest.

One block has an old photo attached not showing very evident updates (new flats built in beneath the main block) , and the other has the  wrong address alongside its picture –  it seems that the second FRA in particular has had its details mixed up with the first FRA, hence some of the information being totally wrong and the address of the first being applied to the second (I know, this is getting very confusing).

Were it not for the horrors of what has happened recently, it would be almost laughable but in the light of everything that has gone on and the sheer tragedy involved, to my mind this is very serious indeed.

I  am now supposed to be reassured that new FRAs are being undertaken for the whole of the borough now – so not to worry about the current FRAs that were only carried out in December 2016.

Well, I am used to always being given the run around, emails ignored  and so on and so forth, but on such a serious issue, I was not expecting this and I was not expecting the sheer disregard that is being shown to someone who has in effect, helped, along with others, in raising some very serious issues that could have proved to have serious consequences in the future.  I guess some things are worth being hated for.

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