Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, writes about the Grenfell Tower fire and how Islington residents can help -
We have all seen the devastating pictures of the Grenfell Tower fire in North Kensington, and on behalf of Islington Council, I have sent our deepest sympathies to all those affected and to the families who have lost loved ones.
The council has been providing support to Kensington & Chelsea Council since the fire, including offering accommodation to people from Grenfell Tower. We are also providing counselling support to the firefighters who were at the scene and who did so much to save lives.
I am immensely proud of Islington residents’ response to this dreadful incident – from donations of clothes and food, to offers of support for those affected. Kensington & Chelsea Council are currently distributing donations to residents and have requested that further support is made in the form of donations to the Grenfell Tower appeal here.
Understandably, this tragic incident has prompted concerns about the cause of the fire and whether there are any possible implications for residents in tower blocks elsewhere.
Our commitment to making sure Islington residents are safe remains our absolute priority, and we work hard on the side of local people to maintain our homes.
I am confident that in Islington we have good and robust management of our housing, including tower blocks. Islington Council always follows the most up to date advice on all aspects of building safety.
All tower blocks in Islington are hardwired with fire detection alarms in all estate dwellings. All dry riser and wet riser systems that help firefighters to tackle any fires are inspected every 12 months to ensure they are in a good working condition.
Since 2013, the council has spent £7 million on its fire risk assessment programme and associated fire safety works – and a further £38 million of works are set to take place.
Every council block has a robust Fire Risk Assessment at least every three years, with some blocks assessed every year, and all of these assessments are signed-off by the London Fire Brigade.
We have asked the Fire Brigade to inform us if there is any change to the advice given to residents in tower blocks in case of a fire. The advice from the Fire Brigade remains that if there is a fire elsewhere in your building then you are safer to stay in your flat, unless the heat or smoke is affecting you. Further information can be found here. It is important that residents remember that the Fire Brigade has stressed that people living in high rise properties are no more at risk of a fire than anyone else.
Whilst the cause of the fire is not yet known, we are aware of reports about the role of external insulating cladding in this fire. We are rapidly bringing together information about council-owned buildings with cladding to identify if any used systems similar to Grenfell Tower. In addition, we are reviewing records for privately owned buildings on a similar basis. Plans to install external insulation on additional council blocks to help residents cut energy bills have been put on hold until we know more about the cause of this fire.
This tragedy must be thoroughly investigated and any recommendations or changes to the law following these investigations will be fully adopted in Islington.
For too long the condition of housing for some of the poorest people in our country has been far from the Government's attention. This tragedy demands that change comes and we will stand alongside residents to demand the safety of ordinary people is at the top of Government priorities.
Our hearts go out to those affected by this fire, and our commitment to make sure Islington residents are safe remains our absolute priority.
Pictured - Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council