POLITICS

Sajid Javid Accused Of 'Misleading' MPs By Claiming No Councils Asked For Fire Safety Cash After Grenfell

One council wrote asking for £10million.

24/07/2017 17:58 | Updated 25 July 2017
PA Wire/PA Images

Sajid Javid falsely told MPs no councils had asked for extra cash to make their tower blocks safe from fires, HuffPost UK has discovered.

The Local Government Secretary made the claim in the Commons a week after Brent Council asked for money to carry out safety work to high-rise buildings.

Brent Council sent a letter to the Local Government Secretary on July 13 asking for £10million to pay for sprinklers in its tower blocks in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy in nearby Kensington and Chelsea.

At least four other councils - Birmingham, Croydon, Southwark, Southampton - have also requested financial help.

Yet on July 20, Javid told the Commons “not a single local authority or housing association has approached me or my Department to ask for any assistance”.

Labour accused Javid of making “misleading statements”.

Brent Council leader Muhammed Butt, who sent the letter, told HuffPost UK: “The Government is in turmoil at the moment, and that turmoil seems to be filtering through to all the departments.

“It’s the right hand not talking to the left hand.

“Sajid Javid is going out to make all these statements and not making sure that what he is saying is a true reflection on what’s going on.

“It’s such a serious subject they do need to get a grip.

“All the London councils have stepped up to the mark after Grenfell, they’ve shown stable leadership. We are making sure that we ally and reassure our residents that we are taking charge.

“This Government is not taking it seriously enough.”

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Graffiti near the Grenfell Tower after fire engulfed the 24-storey block in Kensington.

The letter from Brent Council was sent by email and post to Javid just over a month after the Grenfell tower blaze that claimed the lives of at least 80 people.

The council confirmed that while its high rise buildings do not have the cladding which is believed made Grenfell so flammable, the borough’s towers do “not have sprinklers or smoke alarms routinely fitted.”

The works are estimated to cost £10million, and with budgets already tight, the council asked Javid for “direct financial support to meet the costs incurred.”

“This letter acts as our official request,” it adds.

In the Commons a week later, Javid told MPs no such request had been received, saying: “I have made it clear from the Dispatch Box a number of times that if any local authority or housing association has to take any action to make sure that its buildings are safe, we expect them to do that immediately.

“If they cannot afford it, they should approach us, and we will discuss how to make sure that they have the support that they need. To date, as far as I am aware, not a single local authority or housing association has approached me or my Department to ask for any assistance.

“If they did, of course we would take that very seriously. If he is aware of any local authority that has a funding issue, then he should encourage it to contact me.”

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Labour's John Healey

Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey has written to Javid asking for an “urgent clarification” on how many councils had in fact asked for money.

He wrote: “I am aware that at least five councils had made a request for funding help before 20 July, including Birmingham, Croydon, Southwark, Southampton and Brent council, whose Leader and Chief Executive wrote to you fully a week earlier on 13 July with a formal request.

“Why were you unaware of such essential facts?

“What steps have you taken to make sure you do not make such misleading statements to the House or public in future?

“How many councils have in fact already written to you or your department with a request for funding help?

“How many housing associations have also already done so?”

HuffPost UK asked the Department for Communities and Local Government why Javid told MPs he had received no requests for cash.

In a statement, a spokesperson replied: The department has been contacted by a number of councils about assistance following the Grenfell Tower fire.

“As the Secretary of State has said, no implementation of safety measures should be delayed by financial constraints, and we will work with any council that has concerns about finance.”  

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