Councillors from Birmingham and Croydon join forces to urge Government to fund tower block sprinkler systems

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Councillors in Birmingham have joined colleagues in Croydon to call on the Government to fund sprinklers in tower blocks across the country.

Representatives from Birmingham City Council and Croydon Council outside a tower block

Representatives from Birmingham City Council and Croydon Council outside a tower block

The plea comes after the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017, with Birmingham City Council and Croydon confirming in the days after the blaze that they would retrofit systems in their high-rise residential buildings.

Despite Croydon delaying long-term housing repairs to fund the £10million roll-out in 26 of the tallest tower blocks, both councils have been unsuccessful in securing funding from Government ministers to help.

Cllr Sharon Thompson, Cabinet member for homes and neighbourhoods at Birmingham City Council, said: “All residents in Birmingham have a fundamental right to feel safe in their own homes.

“Following the tragedy at Grenfell, we carried out visits to all of our 10,500 tenants to ensure that as a local authority, we were listening to them and so that we understood their concerns.

“This is why we are committed to spending £31million to retrofit sprinklers – because those that are living in the 213 high-rise tower blocks across the city need them to be able to feel safe.

“Recommendations from both the Hackitt Report and Government have outlined the importance of listening to residents and the need to give tenants a voice. This is exactly what we have already started doing and we will continue to put in place additional steps to strengthen and formalise this process.

“However, £31million is a huge cost for a single authority to bear and Government need to play their role to enable us to support our citizens.”

Cllr Thompson joined Croydon Council’s deputy leader Alison Butler and Birmingham’s acting corporate director for place, Robert James, for a tour around a 10-storey block at College Green, Upper Norwood.

The visit included meeting Brian Black, one of the residents to get the new sprinklers who had witnessed last year’s Grenfell Tower fire 10 miles away from his eighth-floor flat.

“What value do you put on people’s lives?”

The 69-year-old said: “I was delighted when I heard that Croydon Council was going to do this and I was surprised how quickly they were off the blocks, and a very good thing it is that they are doing.

“To retrofit them is costly but what value do you put on people’s lives?”

Cllr Butler said the work in her area would involve fitting sprinklers in 1,250 flats.

“Croydon Council’s fire sprinklers programme to make our taller tower block residents even safer is nearly finished, but it will hit us hard financially because the Government has not lifted a finger to help,” Cllr Butler said.

“It’s been difficult enough for Croydon to find £10million to fit sprinklers and do other works in 26 blocks, but Birmingham needs to do over 200, so we urge Government to see sense and help councils like ours afford these essential upgrades.”

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