SARAH JONES, the MP for Croydon Central, has launched a campaign to get the government to fund sprinkler retrofitting for local authority buildings.
At the start of 2018, Croydon councillor Alison Butler warned that there would be a ‘significant long-term financial burden’ on the borough council should funding not materialise. She had written to then Housing Minister Alok Sharma ‘for a third time’ to request funding help towards the borough’s £10m sprinkler retrofitting programme, as well as a ‘face-to-face meeting’.
The council had warned that government funding is a ‘necessity’ for the programme to go ahead, and that there would be a ‘significant long-term financial burden’ on the council should this funding not be given. It had committed to retrofitting sprinklers in 26 of its tallest residential high rises, but the then Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) had not responded to funding requests.
Croydon Guardian has now reported on the launch of a campaign by Mrs Jones that calls on the government to ‘fund sprinkler retrofitting, rather than local councils’. The campaign was launched in a social media video, with Mrs Jones stating: ‘As Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister, I’m calling on the government to fund this essential work, that the experts say we need, that we know we need from the Lakanal House fire and that we know we need from Grenfell.’
She appealed in the video for the government to create a £1bn fire safety fund to cover the costs, and Mrs Butler also appeared in the video, commenting: ‘Whether or not the government funded it, we were completely committed to doing this job, but we did immediately write to Ministers about what we wanted to do. We were really disappointed that the story that came back from Government wasn’t what they were saying on television. It was that they weren’t prepared to assist us with this programme.’
A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokeswoman responded: ‘Since the tragic events at Grenfell Tower, we have taken steps to ensure the immediate safety of all high rise buildings. If a local authority has concerns about funding essential fire safety measures, they should contact us to discuss their position.’
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