Theresa May was accused of breaking her post-Grenfell tragedy promises on fire safety funding today as a council has been left to foot an £8.4million bill to fit sprinklers in tower blocks.
In the aftermath of the inferno which left at least 80 people dead, the Prime Minister said the Government was “supporting local authorities” and is “making sure that the resources are there to make sure what is needed to keep people safe is being done.”
During Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons today, Nottingham South MP Lilian Greenwood asked why the Government “won’t provide a penny” to her local council to carry out work to tower blocks in the city.
She said: “After Grenfell the Prime Minister promised we cannot and will not ask people to live in unsafe homes.
“How safe would she feel living on the 20 floor of Pine View or South Church Court in my constituency with one staircase and no sprinklers?”
Responding from the Despatch Box, May said: “It’s not the case that sprinklers is the only issue that needs to be looked at or can be addressed or the only solution to ensuring the safety of those tower blocks.
“It is up to the council to make decisions on what they wish to do but we’ve been very clear that discussions have taken place with the DCLG and local authorities on this.”
Greenwood shouted “you’re breaking your promises” to the Prime Minister as she spoke.
Installing sprinklers in high rise buildings was one of the recommendations to come out of the inquest into the deaths of six people in the Lakanal House fire in Southwark in 2009.
The importance of sprinklers were reiterated by the London Fire Brigade last month, when Commissioner Dany Cotton claimed retro-fitting the devices “can’t be optional; it can’t be a ‘nice to have’. This is something that must happen.”
Nottingham City Council’s request for funds to install the safety features were denied by the Department for Communities and Local Government in September.
A letter from Housing Minister Alok Sharma to the council said: “The government expects building owners to fund measures designed to make a building safe and to draw on existing resources to do so. We would consider the removal of financial restrictions in limited circumstances.
“It would appear the work you want to carry out to buildings does not meet either of these categories and the fire safety measures you outline are additional rather than essential. On that basis, any costs would have to be borne by your authority without any further financial assistance.”
Speaking on BBC Radio 4 after the refusal, Nottingham City Council’s housing portfolio holder Jane Urquhart, said: “We found that really difficult to understand given that in the refurbishment of the Houses of Parliament sprinklers are considered essential, so we thought it was quite incredible that they were essential for the Houses of Parliament but not essential for residents of high-rises.”