June 27, 2019

Tower blocks ‘must be fitted with sprinklers’

The Chancellor is being urged to set aside an extra £1bn to retrofit tower blocks with sprinklers after the Grenfell tragedy.

Jeremy Corbyn will make the demand in a speech in London on Thursday, a fortnight before Philip Hammond delivers his Budget.

Sky News understands housing is likely to be one of the key announcements by the Chancellor, with stamp duty reforms to help first time homebuyers.

But Mr Corbyn claims only 2% of council and housing association tower blocks have sprinkler systems, despite research showing they "extinguish or contain fires in 99% of cases".

Video:'We will have to live with Grenfell forever'

"The Government is failing to learn the lessons from this tragedy," he will argue.

"I urge the Chancellor to use the Budget to urgently provide the funds needed to retrofit sprinklers, ensuring people in thousands of tower blocks across our country are living in safety and with peace of mind.

"The Grenfell Tower fire was an entirely avoidable human disaster that must not be repeated."

Labour claims a number of local authorities have had their requests for funding from the Government to retrofit sprinklers turned down or ignored, including Nottingham City Council and Conservative-controlled Westminster Council.

Video:Community still 'traumatised' by Grenfell

The sprinklers whould be fitted to all council and housing association tower blocks, starting with buildings that are 10 storeys or higher, the party will argue.

Mr Corbyn will also hit out at "staggering" cuts to fire services in his speech.

He will say: "In the last seven years, 10,000 frontline firefighter jobs have gone – equivalent to one in six positions."

The Government has launched a public inquiry into the fire at Grenfell Tower, which left 80 people dead and over 70 injured.

Sir Martin Moore-Bick will look at the "response of central and local government in the aftermath".

However some survivors and families of victims claim the frame of reference of the inquiry is too narrow.

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