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The government's housing regulator ruled this morning that thousands of council homes in Camden have been rendered unsafe due to overdue fire safety upgrades. The council was "failing to complete all fire safety actions in a timely manner and to mitigate the risks to tenants in the interim," according to the investigators' findings. Their conclusions are included in a legal notice that the Regulator of Social Housing [RSH] has published. Other local governments, such as the neighbouring Haringey, have previously issued fire safety warnings.
The regulator's investigation found that because the council-owned homes lack smoke alarms, over 9,000 fire safety actions are currently past due. There are about 4,000 homes without carbon monoxide detectors.
"Through our investigation, we found that Camden Council has neglected to address thousands of fire safety actions in its tenants' homes," said Kate Dodsworth, Chief of Regulatory Engagement at RSH. This is unacceptable and could potentially harm tenants. We will closely monitor the council as it takes any necessary action to make things right. Our results make it abundantly clear to all social landlords that upholding health and safety regulations is of the utmost importance. When landlords violate our standards, we will take appropriate action to ensure that tenants have access to safe and decent housing.
The Chalcots estate towers were evacuated in 2017 amid fire safety fears
THOUSANDS of council homes in Camden have been left unsafe due to overdue fire safety improvements, the government’s housing regulator ruled this morning.
Investigators said they had found evidence that the council was “failing to complete all fire safety actions in a timely manner and to mitigate the risks to tenants in the meantime.”
Their findings form part of a regulatory notice issued by the Regulator of Social Housing [RSH]. Several other local authorities, including neighbouring Haringey, have previously received the warnings on fire safety.
The regulator’s investigation revealed that over 9,000 fire safety actions are now overdue in homes owned by the council as they are not fitted with smoke alarms. Around 4,000 homes do not have a carbon monoxide detector fitted.
Kate Dodsworth, Chief of Regulatory Engagement at RSH, said: “Through our investigation, we found that Camden Council has failed to address thousands of fire safety actions in its tenants’ homes. This is unacceptable and has put tenants at potential risk of harm. The council needs to act urgently to put things right, and we will scrutinise it closely as it does this.
“Our findings send a clear message to all social landlords that meeting health and safety requirements is of paramount importance. Tenants deserve to live in safe and decent homes, and we will take action when landlords breach our standards.”
Camden Council leader Georgia Gould
Camden Council leader Labour councillor Georgia Gould said: “There is nothing more important than the safety of our residents and we are taking this notice very seriously Six years ago, I said fire safety was our first priority and that we would invest in a new era of resident safety. We have done exactly that. We are investing more than £200 million in a wide range of safety improvements; we’ve published all fire risk assessments (FRAs) and carried out more than 40,000 individual safety improvements and repairs.
“But we know that there is still more work to be done to complete all remaining higher risk actions, along with all other lower risk actions. A programme of work is in place for delivery this year and next. I won’t be content until every action is complete, and that’s what our teams are working on delivering right now. We recognise that many of the remaining actions outlined by the Regulator are difficult for residents, such as the removal of security grilles.”
She added: “We will be working alongside residents to complete these. “Our focus has been on meeting the standards required by FRAs, but we also want to get to an even higher standard across the board, a standard of excellent housing that our residents deserve.
“To do this we need Government to back us after years of underinvestment nationally in council housing. This includes direct cuts to rental income. We want every resident to live in a safe, damp-free, high-quality home. We won’t wait for Government to act, rather we will continue to push our stretched resources to focus on even faster action to keep residents safe.”
It is not clear whether the government’s position on investment would change if Cllr Gould’s party wins power nationally at the next general election as leader Sir Keir Starmer said there will be “tough decisions” on spending and one of his front benchers, Lucy Powell, the shadow culture secretary, said this week there was “no money left”.
Camden said work undertaken so far included ensuring homes have appropriate fire doors and emergency lighting, gas safety checks in more than 13,000 homes and regular electrical testing in 23,000 homes. It said there had been regular fire risk assessments in over 3,200 buildings, with high-risk blocks assessed on an annual basis.
Camden has completed over 40,000 ‘fire safety actions’ since 2020, while fire alarm testing and communal area checks take place four times a year in street properties.
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30 November 2023
05 September 2023