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Agenda item

Fire Safety in Council Housing - Officer update


Maxine Holdsworth, Corporate Director of Housing updated the meeting on fire safety in the council housing stock. The following points were highlighted.

·         Meeting was advised that prior to the Grenfell fire, fire safety has always been on the radar, however following the incident a decision was taken to review all its cladding systems and a risk assessment of all it buildings. ACM cladding was identified in Braithwaite house and removed by August 2017.

·         The Council monitors fire safety guidance and regulation for tall buildings through the London Council Housing Directors attended by Directors from councils across London, the Homes and Estates Safety Board which is independently chaired and the London Fire Brigade. At these forums or meetings recent fire incidents are discussed and serves as an opportunity to review any new guidance.

·         Meeting was informed that Fire risk Assessments for the councils tall blocks are published on the council website.

·         The Corporate Director highlighted the various works carried in some of the buildings. The insulation installed in Fyfield was identified as not suitable for tall blocks and therefore had to be removed and has now been replaced with a new cladding system with rock wood insulation.

·         With regards to a question about delays in Spa Green fire stopping and communal heating works, the council appointed contractors has now agreed a programme of works in each of the three affected blocks. In response to the timescales, the Director advised that the programme timetable will be circulated to members.

·         On the issue of sprinklers, regulations state that new build buildings of 10 storeys and over should include sprinkler systems. The council has not built any blocks above that height but is installing sprinkers at the new 9 storey block at Redbrick.

·         The meeting was informed that keeping communal areas clear and safe remains an ongoing issue with residents and the Council keeps reiterating its message that this reduces the risk of fire outbreak and its spread.  Members were advised that the policy is simple for residents to follow and estate staff will enforce if necessary.

·         In terms of evacuation procedures, the meeting was advised that with regards to the council’s purpose built properties, the stay put policy remains however with some properties – largely mansion blocks and street properties -  evacuation procedures are in place.

·         With regards to the evacuation plans for vulnerable residents in the case of a fire incident, the meeting was advised that the Council holds details of vulnerable residents which is available to be shared with London Fire Brigade (LFB). Following the Scrutiny meeting in March, officers in conjunction with the local fire brigade met the Housing Disability Panel where the LFB offer of home fire safety visits was promoted to concerned residents, a number of whom took up the offer.

·         Members were reminded that both the council’s Construction and Fire Safety Team are currently working on a pilot to trial the provision of data on resident mobility within a Premises Information Box (PIB) to look at how useful this type of information would be to LFB in practice and how to keep this information secure and up to date.

·         On the issue of communication with residents, members were advised that fire safety advice and reassurances continues to be provided to residents around issues such as what to do in the event of a fire outbreak using leaflets, electronic noticeboards, revised safety notices, Islington Life Magazine, fire safety web pages and dedicated fire safety email address.

·         Members were advised that the Council has budgeted £74m to spend o fire safety works over the next 5 years and to date the Service has spent £16.7m including works to convert dry rising mains to wet rising mains in Peregrine House and Michael Cliff House. Fire compartmentation will be included where necessary within the £20m for tall blocks.

·          With regards to cladding concerns of properties managed by other landlords such as housing associations, the meeting was advised that a list of buildings had been provided. The removal of the cladding has been slow for a number of issues in some cases.

·         In response to a suggestion that the Council should be installing FD 30 doors rather FD 60, the meeting was informed that this was in line with the national guidance and not cost related.

·         The meeting was advised that contracting with fire safety consultants is competitive and expensive following the Grenfell fire, the Council has its own in- house fire safety team which includes a team of in house surveyors who monitor contractors works and eventually signs it off. Meeting was informed that the Council is in the middle of a huge fire training event for fire engineers which will precludes the Council using the services of fire consultants. A member concern that the monitoring of fire safety only occurs after works had been completed instead of during the works was noted.

·         A suggestion to install sprinklers in vulnerable resident’s properties was noted especially with residents with mobility issues who will find it difficult to evacuate and residents with mental issues. Corporate Director agreed to circulate the criteria employed for the use of sprinklers. A member agreed to email some further ideas regarding the criteria for the use of sprinklers. A suggestion for Officers to consider installing single use sprinklers in the flats of known hoarders was noted. 

·         In response to suggestions that the review on fire safety should be extended beyond tower blocks especially as there are a number of blocks of flats in the borough which have wooden claddings especially on their exteriors such as balconies, the Corporate Director acknowledged that all buildings with any form of cladding had been part of the review.   

That the report be noted


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