The whole country was rocked last month by the harrowing images at Grenfell Tower in London.
Our first priority must be to ensure that all those who are affected are given the support they need both now and in the years ahead. The initial support was not good enough and the Government must now do everything it can to support local residents, including providing new housing in the local area for all families displaced. Funding must also be guaranteed for victims’ legal, funeral and other costs.
I welcome the fact that the Queen’s Speech on 21 June confirmed there will be a public inquiry into the fire at Grenfell Tower, and that it included a commitment to publish interim findings. However, there is still significantly more that must be done.
I believe the initial findings of the inquiry must be published by the summer to allow action to begin on any emerging recommendations as swiftly as possible.
The Government should also set out a plan to act immediately on the recommendations from the Coroners’ reports after the Lakanal House and Shirley Towers fires – which it has had since 2013 – by retrofitting high-rise blocks with sprinklers, starting with the highest risk buildings, and overhauling building regulations. Capital funding should be provided as required and housing revenue account borrowing restrictions should be lifted to allow councils to invest in the maintenance of homes.
We need to ensure that residents have up-to-date advice about what to do in the event of a fire in their block; and full safety checks should be undertaken for all high-rise blocks, to ensure there are no serious outstanding fire risks.
There are thousands of tower blocks around our country (including here in Edinburgh South) and every person living in one deserves answers about why this happened and what will be done. The tragic fire that occurred at Grenfell Tower must never be allowed to happen again.
We have been assured that the material used in Grenfell Tower was not used in any tower blocks here in Edinburgh. I am also pleased that the Council have visited every tower block in the city to reassure residents and deliver an informative leaflet with details of an upcoming fire safety review.
Of course, housing and the issues around housing are devolved to the Scottish Parliament but I will be working with colleagues and the Council to ensure homes are safe in Edinburgh South.
I wrote to the Council recently to get more information on the review process:
I have also written to Edinburgh Napier University after news that cladding used at Bainfield Halls had to be removed after it was found to be the same material as was used at Grenfell.•
Napier University response:
“The University told me that the safety of their students and staff has been its number one priority since the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, and continues to be so.”
“Immediately after Grenfell, they carried out a desktop exercise looking at the specifications of the cladding on every building across their estate, prioritising their student accommodation. The only area of concern it highlighted was the timber effect Bainfield cladding and, after an independent inspection on Monday 26 June, work started immediately to begin the process of replacing the panels.”
“A contractor, who was not involved with the Bainfield project previously, has been appointed to carry out the job. The new panels are expected to arrive on site next week (due to logistics and preparation of the panels), when the physical work of removing and replacing the cladding will start in earnest.”
“There will be just over 600 panels replaced on five external walls of the building and the University •expects the work will take 6-8 weeks, ensuring it is completed in time for its new intake of students at Bainfield in September.”
“The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service inspected Bainfield on the afternoon of Tuesday 27 June and reported back that they are content with the fire safety management of the buildings.”
“All of Edinburgh Napier’s other buildings are currently in the process of being formally inspected.”•