Branch Secretary : suz.muna.unite@gmail.com
  

No more excuses: fit sprinklers now!

Government set face against paying

 

In the immediate aftermath of the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower the government pledged that money would not prevent vital safety work being done.

 

But since then they have set their face against paying for sprinklers - an essential measure according to the London Fire Brigade. And at least one council, Tory-controlled Wandsworth in south London, plans to punish leaseholders with a charge of £4,000!

 

Jeremy Corbyn is absolutely right to demand that the Tories allocate £1 billion to fit sprinklers. As he says, it is obscene the government will not commit retrofitting funds while failing to tackle tax avoidance.

 

Safety can't wait

 

It is also right that Labour is pledging to fund installation when elected to government. But safety can't wait. Socialists will support residents and tenants in demanding that sprinklers are fitted now. Social landlords should take action now and bill the government.

 

Local authority landlords could proceed now using reserves, and housing associations should draw on their own resources. Housing associations' surpluses this year will amount to £5.6 billion, an increase over last year of 15.6%, according to consultancy firm Vantage Business Solutions.

 

Government must pay

 

Operating margins average 30%, much higher than private construction companies. Property developer Bellway recently boasted of a record margin of 22.3%, for example. If they prioritise safety, housing associations can afford sprinklers.

 

Sprinklers must be fitted - but the government, not residents, should pay. Non-payment and legal action are among the options being considered by some of the more than 1,000 leaseholders in Wandsworth, who met last week to form a group to oppose the plans.

 

The labour movement must back such campaigns. Some leaseholders may be better off - but many would be pushed further into debt, or forced to move, in order to pay these sums.

 

Provide fire safety assessments

 

Social housing residents have had difficulty accessing fire safety assessments from landlords. If landlords resist providing this basic information, the labour movement must support residents with a massive campaign. No safety - no rent!

 

The Information Commissioner has called for social landlords to proactively share safety assessments. The Department for Communities and Local Government has backed this up. But some landlords remain unwilling.

 

Inside Housing, the trade magazine, invited housing associations to post assessments on their website in the interests of transparency - but associations have been unwilling to do so.

 

Councils can be subject to Freedom of Information requests. As independent bodies, housing associations are not subjects to this legislation. But there is no good reason to withhold it.

 

Thursday 17th November 2017

 

For more on housing association surpluses see here

 

By branch member Paul Kershaw Cross posted from The Socialist

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