Nottingham City Council criticises Government confusion on fire safety funding

Nottingham City Council has accused the Government of sending out mixed messages on whether it will help fund fire safety measures following the Grenfell disaster.

In his Autumn Budget speech, Philip Hammond said that “if any local authority cannot access funding to pay for essential fire safety work, they should contact us immediately…..we will not let financial constraints get in the way of essential safety work.”

However, on the same day the Council received a letter from Housing Minister Alok Sharma which said that ‘local authorities should draw on existing resources to implement these measures’ and that the Goverrnment would only ’consider the removal of financial constraints for local authorities where these stand in the way of essential work being done’.

Mr Sharma had previously written to the Council in September refusing a request for funding saying the fire safety measures outlined were ‘additional rather than essential’ and that any costs would have to be borne by the authority ‘without any further financial assistance’. This is despite the Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, saying that the retrofitting of sprinklers “can’t be optional or a ‘nice to have’”.

Councillor Jane Urquhart, the Council’s Portfolio Holder for Planning Housing and Heritage, said: “The Government is sending out mixed messages on this issue.

“On the one hand, the Chancellor has said they will not let financial constraints get in the way of essential safety work. But on the other, the Housing Minister is saying that local authorities should draw on existing resources and has already turned down our request for funding seemingly because the installation of sprinklers is somehow not essential despite expert advice to the contrary.

‘In Nottingham we are pressing ahead with an £8.4 million programme of fire safety work in the city and the Minister has praised the proactive approach we have taken to.

“However, despite us making clear that funding this work will mean other planned housing schemes will have to be reduced or delayed, the Government has so far refused to help.

“We urge the Government to put its money where its mouth is and provide the additional funding we need for this essential work so we don’t have to take money out of other vital housing schemes.”