London flats and horizon

One in four buildings (28%) in London that have had ‘stay put’ advice suspended have been flagged up by the London Fire Brigade (LFB) for fire safety defects other than unsafe cladding.

These new figures, obtained by Labour’s London Assembly Fire and Resilience Spokesperson, Anne Clarke AM, reveal that as of June, 305 out of the 1099 buildings in London placed under a simultaneous evacuation policy were categorised as having ‘other fire safety issues.’ Ms Clarke said that this data is a reminder of the “sheer scale of the building safety crisis” and has called upon the government to ensure “financial protections are in place for people living in unsafe buildings of all sizes.”

Many buildings under a simultaneous evacuation policy will require a waking watch, which involves a trained fire safety officer continually patrolling the internal communal areas and the external perimeter of a premises.

The median monthly cost of a waking watch in London is £15,641 per building, equivalent to £256 per dwelling, official data shows.

The government has so far announced £62 million of funding to pay for fire alarms in buildings of all heights across the country with a waking watch in place. However, Ms Clarke is continuing to raise concerns that this still won’t be enough to cover the scale of demand in London.

The former Secretary of State for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), Michael Gove, announced that developers, followed by building owners and landlords will be first in line to pay for non-cladding historical safety defects, rather than leaseholders. These protections only apply to buildings over 11 metres or five storeys high.

As of June, 260 buildings with a simultaneous evacuation policy in place due to cladding and other fire safety issues, were under 18 metres in height. Ms Clarke is warning that some of these buildings will be under 11 metres in height and occupiers and leaseholders will not be eligible for government financial support.

In the Mayor’s 2021 Spending Review submission to the Treasury, a £3 million increase in baseline funding was requested to support the LFB’s ability to maintain its current number of inspecting officers, as well as the ongoing maintenance of the Building Design and Consultation Hub (BDCH) and Fire Safety Centre of Excellence (CLE).

Labour’s London Assembly Fire and Resilience Spokesperson, Anne Clarke AM, said:

“These figures are a reminder that the building safety crisis we are facing is not just about dangerous cladding, but many other issues and historical defects that need to be urgently addressed.

“I am pleased that after a lot of delay, the government has finally woken up to this reality and put the onus upon developers and building owners to cover the costs of all forms of remediation.

“My concern is that there are still scenarios where London’s leaseholders could be liable for these exorbitant costs. The new Secretary of State must now close any existing loopholes and this includes ensuring that financial protections are in place for people living in unsafe buildings of all sizes.

“Five years on from the Grenfell tragedy, we are still in the process of trying to understand the sheer scale of this crisis. This is why it is vital that the London Fire Brigade receives proper funding from the government to ensure it can recruit and retain enough inspecting officers in its ranks.”