Labour is using its Safer Homes Campaign to demand that the Chancellor commit to the £1 billion needed to enforce new safety measures ahead of next week’s Budget – we have to make sure that we keep high-rise residents safe by funding the retrofitting of sprinkler systems in all social housing tower blocks.
The Grenfell Tower fire was a national tragedy and demands a national response from Government to make sure it can never happen again.
Yet here we are, five months later and the Prime Minister and her government have refused to fund vital improvement works, promising only to look at letting councils borrow money to pay for work themselves.
This is not the first time that the Government has been warned over fire risks in high-rise blocks of flats resulting in loss of life. In 2013, coroners wrote to the Government on two separate fires – in Lakanal House in Camberwell in 2009 in which six people died, and in Shirley Towers in Southampton in 2010 in which two firefighters died.
In the Coroner’s letter on both the Lakanal House and Shirley Towers fires, it was recommended that the Government retrofit sprinklers into high-rise blocks, but Ministers have not taken any meaningful steps to do this, in fact, recent investigations by the BBC found that only around 2% of council and housing association tower blocks have sprinklers fitted.
We know sprinklers save lives. In 99% of cases, sprinkler systems extinguish or contain fires. That’s why Labour has launched its Safer Homes campaign and is urging the chancellor to set aside £1bn in the budget to install sprinkler systems in all council and housing association tower blocks.
Across Tameside I’m demanding that the Government provide our housing associations with the means to protect community homes. New Charter Homes, Ashton Pioneer Homes and Irwell Valley Housing Association in Denton need the funding promised by the Government so they can ensure family homes are safe and secure.
I find it obscene that we’ve reached this point with the government refusing to commit retrofitting funds at the same time as they fail to tackle tax avoidance.
As Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary I know how painful the Grenfell Tragedy was for so many residents and I know that many now feel let down by a Government that failed to deliver on it’s promises that things would change for the better. I understand that while councils and housing associations up and down the country rushed to make sure their residents were safe they were severely let down by Government Ministers with a lack of clear advice and a lack of funds to make sure that their residents’ homes were safe. They needed leadership from their Government, yet all they received were pleasantries and empty promises.
For too long social housing has been badly neglected which is why Labour have committed to following the advice of professionals and have pledged to retrofit sprinklers in al high-rise blocks. We must make sure that a tragedy like Grenfell can never happen again.