Brent and Harrow
5 May 2016 Vote for
Sadiq Khan Mayor of London
Navin Shah GLA Brent & Harrow
Labour Party Londonwide

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Navin's News for March 2018

Grenfell must never happen again

The enormity and tragedy of the fire at Grenfell Tower is a stark reminder that London cannot afford to ignore the deadly consequences of failing to protect its buildings from fire.

Londoners have a mixture of ‘passive’ and ‘active’ fire safety measures installed in their homes. Passive fire safety measures, such as fire doors, when combined with active measures which activate during a fire, such as fire alarms, can allow people to quickly and safely escape fires.  The number of dwelling fires in London fell from 7,009 incidents in 2009/10, [2] to 5,507 in 2016/17, a fall of nearly 21 per cent. [3]

Requiring Automatic Fire Suppression Systems (AFSS) like sprinklers, alongside passive protections like fire doors, could further significantly reduce the risk of loss of life and property. However,
Automatic fire suppression systems (AFSS) are not mandatory in residential buildings below 30 metres high in England.

On behalf of the London Assembly Planning Committee, I have released a report today (22 March 2018) into AFSS in London. The report ‘Never Again: Sprinklers as the next step in fire safety’ recommends:

  *  The government should develop a phased legislative road map as a clear milestone towards making AFSS compulsory in every residential building in England. 

* The Government should amend Building Regulations to make installing automatic fire suppression systems (AFSS) in all new-build residential developments above 18 metres in height mandatory.
  *   The Government should update the Building Regulations to require all new care homes and sheltered housing to be fitted with sprinkler systems in England
  *   The Mayor should create a £50 million ‘London Sprinkler Retrofitting Fund’ to fund AFSS in 200 existing high-risk buildings over the next five years.

What happened to Grenfell Tower and the people who lived there must never be allowed to happen again. Fire is unforgiving and we must not be complacent about its tragic consequences.

Since January 2016, the installation of Automatic Fire Suppression Systems (AFSS) has been compulsory in all new dwellings in Wales, and in Norway, Finland - and in some US jurisdictions, sprinkler systems are also required.

The Government needs to set out a clear road map towards making AFSS mandatory in England for all new residential buildings. As a very important first and immediate step, AFSS must be made compulsory in all new residential buildings over 18 metres – 6 storeys – high, as well as new care homes and sheltered housing. We also want to see existing residential buildings fitted with AFSS as they come up for refurbishment.

Requiring AFSS to be retrofitted in every existing building is not immediately feasible. In those buildings over 30 metres high alone, this could cost up to £500 million.

A different approach is needed. The Mayor should focus on protecting those most vulnerable to fire risk through a new £50 million ‘London Sprinkler Retrofitting Fund’.

Currently, we are behind the rest of the world when it comes to safeguarding Londoners from the horrific consequences of fire. It is time we act swiftly and decisively. 

 

Local homelessness requires stringent action

I have urged the Government to take more stringent action to tackle homelessness. Earlier this month, the Prime Minister set out her proposals to tackle the shortage of affordable housing and the rising rate of homelessness in the UK, referring to it as a source of ‘national shame’. 

Government data shows that since 2012, the number of families in temporary accommodation in London has risen by 46% to 44,260. This equates to 1 in 24 families without a permanent, stable home. Rough sleeping has also sharply risen across the capital, with figures from the Greater London Authority (GLA) showing that last year there were 8,000 Londoners sleeping rough. The StreetLink app, which enables members of the public to alert services to rough sleepers they are concerned about, reports that Londoners have made 23,465 referrals since its launch. In February 2018, 11,288 referrals were made- an increase of 2000% compared to February 2017.

Help has been made available through City Hall, with the Mayor of London’s ‘No Nights Sleeping Rough’ taskforce which has, so far, secured £4.2 million of funding from the Government to help rough sleepers. Londoners have donated £135,000 to the Mayor’s wider rough sleeping campaign, with Sadiq Khan also calling upon the housing sector to make a contribution. 

I am incredibly concerned about those who are in the vulnerable position of sleeping rough on our capital’s streets. We should also be aware that homelessness is not always visible. It is shocking to see the high rate of local families who are stuck in temporary accommodation that is often unsuitable for themselves and their families.  

Tragically, this is what happens when you’ve got a government so intent on delivering huge cuts to council budget and slashing welfare, and not so intent on delivering the genuinely affordable housing we desperately need or tackling insecure tenancies. This was always going to be a recipe for disaster and the real shame is that they’ve allowed homelessness and rough sleeping to spiral out of control.

It’s fantastic to hear that Londoners are looking out for one another and using the StreetLink app to ensure rough sleepers receive the support they need, but the Government must take more stringent action to help. I want to see the Government committing the funding to build much needed social houses, consideration given to capping rent increases and an end to punitive welfare.

Notes

-According to Government data, provided by Shelter to Tom Copley AM, over the last five years, the number of families in temporary accommodation in London has risen by 46% to 44,260. This is equivalent to 1 in 24 families;

-Government figures, provided by Shelter to Tom Copley AM. (Data derived from table 775);

- Figures from the Greater London Authority (GLA) show that last year there were 8,000 Londoners sleeping rough, this is in steep contrast to data published by the House of Commons Library which record that in 2005, only 459 rough sleepers were recorded in the whole of England;

-The Mayor of London previously launched a ‘No Nights Sleeping Rough’ taskforce which has so far raised £4.2 million of funding from the government to help rough sleepers. The Mayor’s wider rough sleeping campaign has also raised £145,000 in public donations to go towards the London Homeless Charities Group, a coalition of 18 charities brought together by the Mayor to offer Londoners one single donation point

- Since its launch, Londoners have made 23,465 referrals through the StreetLink app. In February 2018, 11,288 referrals were made- an increase of 2000% compared to February 2017;