H&F Council refuses to publish Fire Risk Assessments and rejects plea for sprinklers in all council housing blocks

There was a Hammersmith and Fulham Council meeting last night which saw hours of filibustering by Labour councillors to curtail time for discussion on their fire safety record.

The motion they didn’t want debated stated:

1. This Council reaffirms the commitment to the safety of tenants, leaseholders, residents and their families in its housing stock which lies at the heart of its public service provision.

2. This Council notes:

a. The ‘Limited Assurance’ audit report issued in July 2016 in respect of the Council’s Housing and Regeneration Department (“HRD”) Health and Safety Checks.

b. The reports to Audit Pensions and Standards Committee of 13th September 2016, 7th December 2016, 13th March 2017 and 21st June 2017 relating to deficient and late implementation of health and safety checks and remedial works, which included gas safety, electrical installation, asbestos management, communal hot water tank chlorination and fire risk assessments.

It also said:

4. This Council resolves to:

a. Eliminate immediately the backlog of HRD health and safety checks and remedial works of all kinds identified by the reports to Audit Committee.

b. Install sprinkler systems in all blocks of Council flats.

c. Set for a date for the removal of the hazardous panels to the Charecroft Estate.

d. Set a date for fitting sprinklers in the Charecroft Estate as requested by residents of that estate.

e. Publish immediately copies of fire risk assessments and other health and safety reports for all Council owned housing blocks in the borough on the Council’s website.”

When it eventually came they voted to reject my proposal that all Fire Risk Assessments for all council blocks should be published on the transparency section of the Council’s website. That was a shameful decision which they struggled to even attempt to justify. The Council leader told me there was a lot of anxiety among residents. Indeed. Does he really imagine that secrecy helps?

The Charecroft Tenants and Residents Association have obtained the fire risk assessments for their blocks and published them on their website. It gives the address for Roseford Court and Woodford Court as Hammersmith Grove. That does not exactly instill confidence. Nor that the Council is still resisting publication of documents relating to the Shepherds Court fire put in as FOI requests by Inside Housing magazine. They say it would not be in the “public interest”….

I have put in a Freedom of Information request for the Fire Risk Assessments for all blocks in the borough of over six storeys and I will publish them on this site if I get them. Then I will ask for the lower rise blocks.

So far as the sprinklers are concerned I was told that they would be installed in tower blocks. But how were tower blocks defined? How many storeys? “You should already know,” the Council leader told me as if it was a game. “We will tell you afterwards.” Then he said it was 12 storeys. Later he told me it was six storeys.

What happens if there is a fire on a five storey block? Or a two, three or four storey block?

The Chief Fire Officers Association points out that nobody had ever died in a fire in the UK in a property with a properly installed sprinkler system.

Ronnie King, an acknowledged expert in this field, has told me the case for installing sprinklers in all blocks of flats is overwhelming. This was what the Labour councillors voted against last night with an amendment deleting making any such undertaking.

This report from a study of a retrofitting project in Sheffield says:

“Perhaps the key finding of the project is that the installation cost is less than £1,150 per flat. This is significant in that it is significantly less than had been estimated and illustrates how economically such a scheme can be retrofitted in occupied premises without undue disruption.”

As I have argued before that spending should be given priority in the context of the Council’s £30 million annual capital spending. Council leaseholders should not be charged. Myths – such as that the sprinklers might go off by accident – need to be busted. Fire officers should be encouraged to tour the estates to meet residents to explain the need for the sprinklers to be installed.

The Council needs to provide transparency and show some leadership. Rather than dithering and delaying it needs to take the action that is clearly required to keep residents safe.

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “H&F Council refuses to publish Fire Risk Assessments and rejects plea for sprinklers in all council housing blocks

  1. Despite originally being told I would be sent a copy of an FRA on the Charecroft Estate, this was not sent and there has been a determined effort, it seems, to delay or even avoid answering my queries. My FOI enquiry was due to be answered yesterday (20th July), but this was not received. Instead I received a response asking me to resend the initial email I sent in to make a complaint, and that this would be addressed when the officer came back from leave, if I still had not received a response. This information should have been given to Corporate Complaints already! There is a complete lack of transparency and delaying tactics which to me, seems to be the norm.

    Residents are anxious and worried – rightfully so – but the anxiety has been worsened by the discrepancies in the FRAs for Charecroft and the FRA written for Verulam House. It appears that the much of the wording from Verulam was cut and pasted to the Charecroft FRAs, hence the mistakes on the latter. These mistakes start on the front pages and continue from there.

    The lack of response from the Council, avoidance of phone calls, and ignoring of emails is what is anxiety producing. Being told the truth and knowing that any dangers will be addressed with immediate effect would lessen, if not completely eliminate residents’ concerns! New FRAs are being carried out from July 2017 it seems but what is wrong with the previous FRAs and where are they? Some of these issues were known of months ago and we even received letters telling us that certain blocks were safe, despite second opinion tests still being undertaken on panels believed to have given cause to help to spread fire more rapidly.

    What is truly terrifying is when genuine requests are being brushed aside, there is no accountability by anyone (I cannot even find out who the named person is in taking responsibility for fire and safety in our homes) and when dithering and delaying could in effect, cost lives.

    I understand that the residents conference this year will not be held in one place but will be held on different estates – perhaps this is one way of ensuring that residents do not share their concerns and worries and concerns!

  2. The fears of damage by accidental activation of sprinklers, by brief frying fire for example, can be avoided by using modern water vapourising spray fire extinguishers. They usually cost about the same and are used by private landlords.

  3. I understand the reasoning for retrofit cladding of a building in a non combustable material such as light gauge steel. Insulation on the outside of building Is pointless. You get very little comparative increase in energy retention /saving, its just easier. Its just politics trying to meet environmental standards. Clad outside in non combustible material and try insulting inside if you really need to. How much energy can you save in a concrete box. It’s probably European carbon/energy targets and standards that caused this.

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