Firstly I want to thank Portsmouth City Council for its swift action in sending in material from its own tower blocks for testing, the reassurance and fire safety measures for residents of those blocks and work to remove cladding shown to be flammable, already well underway. They were one of the first councils to act and make use of the free testing service set up by Government.
As well as its own blocks the Council has been actively identifying all properties that are over 6 stories or greater than 18 meters within the private market in Portsmouth.
Where there is external cladding on properties the council has been actively contacting the owners of these properties to both provide support and pass information to them. Most of the companies involved are large national bodies. National Government has also be liaising with those bodies and the free national testing service is being made available every landlord, whether they are in the public, social or private sector. To date, only one block in Portsmouth in the private sector has been identified with any sort of cladding.
Today I met with the Secretary of State for DCLG, who also made a statement in the Commons to update colleagues about Grenfell Tower and fire safety. In the meeting I specifically raised the point about finance and what help might be made available to our Council.
DCLG is in contact with all councils concerned and aware of the particular situation they are facing. In Portsmouth the council faces costs in doing the immediate remedial work on the blocks cladded in flammable material, and, potentially, in fire safety measures it may wish to install based on what the fire authority might recommend. We can expect further details to follow about funds shortly, but the Secretary of State has said that where councils need financial support for such necessary works they will receive what help they need. The full costs of Portsmouth’s work will not yet be know, but the instruction is clear: get on with necessary work immediately, and they are. I am in touch with PCC on a daily basis and Cllrs and officers are keeping me informed.
The statement today also announced the setting up of a special fire safety panel to make some immediate recommendations in light of the concerning and widespread breeches of fire safety and build regulations and good practice. There is much work to do.
Photo: Sarah Standing.