Call to retrofit sprinklers as 95% of social housing blocks go without

The Labour party has called for the introduction of sprinkler systems in all social housing blocks, following some pretty bleak research.

According to the party’s investigation, 95% of social housing high rises still haven’t been retrofitted with sprinklers – 10 years after the Lakanal House fire which claimed six lives.

Labour wants to see the introduction of a £1 billion fund to pay for sprinkler retrofitting in tower blocks – though the government’s sluggish reaction since the even greater Grenfell fire disaster suggests they might be waiting a while.

Shadow housing minister Sarah Jones led the investigation which used FoI requests and publicly available data to compile information from 354 councils and arm’s length management organisations (ALMOs).

She said: ‘The Lakanal House fire showed the clear need for sprinklers in all tall housing blocks, Yet a decade on, nothing has changed. We know ministers ignored years of warnings prior to Grenfell, and two years after 72 people died they are still refusing to make blocks safe.

‘It is simply a contradiction in terms for the government to suggest that sprinklers are essential in new buildings whilst ignoring calls for them in older buildings.

‘This creates a two-tier system, hierarchy of harm where social housing tenants are disproportionately affected.’

Sounds like an open and shut case, doesn’t it? Not according to the government, which claims retrofitting sprinklers is non-essential work.

What about the fire brigade? This is their area, isn’t it? According to Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, the government is presiding over one ‘appalling’ fire safety failure after another.

He said: ‘Sprinklers should be retrofitted to any building deemed necessary by a fire risk assessment as part of a wider campaign to improve fire safety.

‘Lakanal House should have been a turning point in the UK’s fire safety regime, but many of the warnings raised by the Fire Brigades Union fell on deaf ears.’