Fire safety in Camden under close scrutiny after housing watchdog’s damning report

Camden Town Hall

Work to tackle a backlog of fire safety measures will be coming under closer scrutiny in Camden after a housing watchdog said residents could have been at risk.

The housing scrutiny committee will get monthly updates on work including fitting hard-wired smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, checks on external walls, and audits on fire risk management plans.

They will also hear about work to clear combustible items stored in communal areas.

It comes after the council was criticised by the Regulator of Social Housing earlier this summer.

It found that council tenants could have been “exposed to potential harm” because of the time it took to tackle fire safety concerns.

Camden was fined £500,000 after Magdalena Fink died in a fire at a council home in Daleham Gardens in Hampstead.

Fire Risk Assessments in 2013 and 2017 had highlighted concerns about combustible wooden cladding on a communal staircase and a lack of proper fire doors, but these had not been fitted when a fire broke out in November 2017.

The regulator found Camden had more than 9,000 fire remedial actions overdue and 1,500 were on the list to be completed since 2020.

The regulator said this included 400 high-risk overdue actions, despite a timetable setting out that a third should have been completed within 10 days and the rest within a month.

In a discussion at full council Green councillor Sian Berry said: “The judgement is incredibly serious. There isn’t the seriousness that there should be. The words of the regulator are plain enough.”

She said if work should be done within 10 days “we know residents are at risk”.

She added: “The council needs to get a grip on this.”

Liberal Democrat Tom Simon, who leads the largest opposition group on the council, said: “There needs to be more effective scrutiny.”

He said the regulator’s findings showed “the council was not on top of things”.

He had called for a meeting for all councillors to discuss fire safety concerns.

Town Hall bosses said they have spent £68m on fire safety works since the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017, with a further £228m on removing harmful cladding from the Chalcots estate in Primrose Hill.

Work includes fitting fire resistant front doors to 10,000 homes, communal alarms in 1,200 blocks, and compartmentalisation, fire retardant paint, signage, and emergency lighting in 1,100 blocks.

The council said it has tackled 40,000 fire safety jobs in its 30,000 homes.

Other steps include launching a fire safety charter and a fire safety panel that includes residents.

Cabinet member for housing Meric Apak said the council had reduced the urgent list to 85 actions.

“We have visited all our homes to offer smoke detection,” he said.

“Grenfell changed everything – my priority is investment in capacity to make critical fire safety improvements.”

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