Council says fire risk assessments complete after Tory ‘chaos’ warning

Firefighters at a major fire alert in Brixton earlier this year
Firefighters at a major fire alert in Brixton earlier this year

Lambeth council had said that it has completed an urgent review of fire risk assessments for properties it manages after Conservative opposition leader Tim Briggs, a councillor for Clapham Common, warned of “chaos” in the council over the assessments.

In an open letter to council chief executive Sean Harriss, Briggs quoted a report considered by the council’s corporate committee at the end of September.

He said it showed that, “of a sample of 23 buildings assessed by council audit officers, 12 did not have up-to-date fire risk assessments, rating Lambeth’s failure as ‘critical’. Seven of those 12 had not been assessed for more than three years.

“If that sample percentage is applied across Lambeth, then more than half of the buildings managed by the council are unsafe.

“As you will be aware, in next-door Southwark a 2013 inquiry into the Lakanal building fire [in which six people died in Camberwell] found that the Labour council there had failed to carry out fire risk assessments.”

The report to the committee in September said that an urgent review would take place to verify the number of fire risk assessments (FRA) that were out of date and that there would be an audit of the FRA re-inspection programme.

At the time of the report there was a backlog of 280 FRA reassessments. The council appointed new consultants in June to manage the backlog as well as two agency FRA inspectors

The document said the council was completing 40 inspections a week and that the backlog of re-inspections would be cleared by the end of this month.

The report said there was no programme of re-inspections to ensure remedial works addressed issues identified.

It went on: “We could not be provided with evidence that remedial works required as a result of fire risk assessments had been completed. This could lead to fire risks not being promptly addressed or mitigations put in place may not be sufficient to address risks identified.”

It said that, with immediate effect:

•  The fire risk team would work more closely with area housing teams to ensure that works orders are raised and completed for remedial works identified by fire risk assessments.

•  All re-inspections would be recorded and stored on the council’s SharePoint collaboration database software.

Briggs said that “The chaos at the council under Labour is now risking the lives of our loved ones. We cannot let this go on.”

A council spokesman said that “All fire risk assessment re-inspections have now been completed.

“Internal audits are extremely important in highlighting various issues that require immediate action, and we take them very seriously.

“We have worked hard to address the issues raised in September’s report. This has included a programme of independently conducted fire risk assessments undertaken at a rate of 40 per week.

“The councillor’s letter has been noted and we will respond to him directly.”