Agenda item

Fire Safety & Housing in the London Borough of Brent

To receive a report from the Assistant Chief Executive updating Council about existing fire safety arrangements for housing in Brent and actions that the local authority has taken to improve fire safety in council-managed properties since the tragedy at Grenfell Tower in 2017.   The report also provides and update about fire safety arrangements for the private sector and Registered Providers.


AGREED that Council note the report providing an update on fire safety arrangements for housing across the borough.


Councillor Eleanor Southwood (Lead Member for Housing and Welfare Reform) introduced a report from Assistant Chief Executive, outlining the Fire Safety arrangements for housing in Brent.


Introducing the report, she highlighted that keeping residents safe in their homes remained one of the Council’s top priorities, with the report having been prepared to provide an update on fire safety activities being undertaken or led by the Council in response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy.  Members were advised that the report included actions being taken by the Council in relation of its own housing stock, which included intrusive fire safety checks to highlight areas of risk and the development of a programme of works designed to address fire safety issues including improvements to fire doors, installation of sprinkler systems in high rise blocks and the introduction of a zero tolerance approach towards litter and rubbish in communal areas.


In addition, Councillor Southwood highlighted the close work being undertaken by the Council with Housing Associations and took the opportunity to particularly thank the residents of Merle and Dan Courts for their patience during the disruption recently experienced as residents of Catalyst Housing Association.  The report had also focussed on action being taken in relation to landlords in the Private Rented Hosing Sector, which was being driven and regulated through the mandatory, additional and selective private sector and Houses in Multiple Occupation landlord licensing schemes.  Councillor Southwood felt these schemes remained the best way to regulate safety and ensure compliance, with all members and local residents encouraged to participate in the consultation on extension of the scheme currently being undertaken.  Given the range of activity identified, Councillor Southwood advised she had no hesitation in commending the report and recommendations to Council.


The Mayor then opened up the debate for other members to speak on the report.


Councillor Johnson welcomed the report and thanked Councillor Southwood for the update provided.  Whilst recognising the importance of the work being undertaken he felt there was also a need to outline the extent of the costs involved and to challenge the level of funding being provided by Central Government to support local authorities in undertaking this work.


Recognising the role undertaken by Housing Scrutiny Committee in monitoring and reviewing the Council’s response towards fire safety, Councillor Long felt it was also important to consider the control of parking on housing estates, given the problems identified in relation to blockages and access for emergency vehicles.


As no further members had indicated they wished to speak Councillor Southwood, in exercising her right of reply, responded to the issues raised during the debate by highlighting that the Council’s Cabinet had agreed to invest £10m in terms of capital funding to support the programme of housing fire safety works.  Whilst funding had been sought from Central Government as a means of recouping these costs this had been unsuccessful.  She pointed out that whilst the Government had subsequently made it easier for Housing Associations and Private Sector landlords to claim back funding for associated fire safety works no such support had, to date, been provided for local authorities.  In terms of parking on housing estates, Councillor Southwood advised that this had been recognised as an issue with the difficulty remaining enforcement in areas where there was no controlled parking arrangement in place.  Whilst consideration of the schemes available remained under review one option also being considered involved the enforcement of pavement parking on estates, which it was felt would assist in addressing the problem.


The Mayor then put the recommendations to the vote by a show of hands and they were unanimously CARRIED.


It was therefore RESOLVED to note the report and accompanying appendix setting out the fire safety arrangements for housing in the borough.

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