Birmingham City Council commits to retro-fitting sprinklers in high-rise properties

Last week, we provided an update on what Cllr Mary Locke and the council have been doing in response to the Grenfell Tower fire to keep local people safe. Earlier this week (Tuesday 27 June), the Cabinet met to take stock of the actions that have already been taken and to decide what will happen. Here’s an update on what actions have been taken, what future work is planned and what Mary is doing to reassure local people living in high rises.

Actions taken so far

Following the fire in London, Birmingham City Council has taken the following actions:

  • Central government cladding checks. The council has sent details of all different types of cladding used in council properties to central government. Where central government has had concerns over safety concerns, councils have been asked to send cladding off for testing. So far, Birmingham has not been asked to send off any samples.
  • Local council cladding checks. The council has decided to go beyond the requirements set by central government and run tests in Birmingham on cladding. So far, the tests have found no concerns but testing is ongoing.
  • Fire Safety checks. The council has carried out a review of all risk assessment papers to ensure assessment are up-to-date. All towers have an up-to-date risk assessment.
  • Physical checks on blocks. Daily inspections of all high-rise blocks were already being carried out before the Grenfell Tower fire and these have continued.  
  • Refurbishment checks. Where refurbishment work has been undertaken, a review of all specifications on the materials used has been carried out. The council is confident that the materials used in Birmingham properties are not the same as those used in London. 

Future investment in safety measures

  • Sprinklers should be retro-fitted. The council has reviewed the safety of Birmingham’s tower blocks and identified that water sprinkler systems would assist us in ensuring that residents living in tower blocks have the best protection in the event of fire.
  • Central government need to help Birmingham meet the cost of fitting sprinklers. The Leader of Birmingham City Council, Cllr John Clancy, has written to the leaders of other major cities in England, asking for their support to lobby central government for help paying the estimated £31 million it will cost to retro-fit sprinklers.
  • Birmingham City Council is determined to improve safety. Regardless of whether it receives financial support from central government, the council will be developing a rolling programme of sprinkler installation and fire prevention measures. These improvements will be paid for out of the council’s Capital receipts.
  • Birmingham City Council will implement any recommendations that come out from the enquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire.

A positive start but no room for complacency

The results of the safety checks carried out so far indicate Birmingham City Council has taken its Fire Safety responsibilities  seriously. The Leader of the council and the Cabinet have also made a clear commitment to build on the safety measures that already exist through a rolling programme of sprinkler installation.

Cllr Mary Locke will be writing to residents living in high-rise towers on the Masefield Estate to inform them about what is being done to keep them safe.  Over the coming weeks and months, Mary will keep a close eye on the situation, to ensure that the council makes good on the commitments it has given to local people.

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