Birmingham City Council is today (Tuesday) expected to confirm it will borrow £31 million to install sprinklers in every one of its high-rise flats – if the Government fails to provide the cash. More than 200 tower blocks in the city will benefit from enhanced fire safety equipment over the next two years. The council, which has reviewed fire safety following the Grenfell Tower fire in London, is expected to announce it will spend £19 million on the first phase of its retrofitting programme.
In an ambitious, uncompromising plan, Birmingham plans to invest in sprinklers to safeguard the occupants of 2,725 flats over the coming year. A further 4,408 apartments will benefit from the fire supressing equipment in the next financial year.
‘Residents safer with sprinklers’
In total, Birmingham City Council has 62,000 social homes. It is spending a combined sum of £129 million on a wide-ranging improvement plan. Sprinklers systems are just one of the areas being invested in. Homes will also benefit from spending on lift repairs, insulation, better heating systems and new doors and windows.
The decision to install sprinklers in every high-rise flat has been prompted by advice from fire safety experts. They say tenants are safer with sprinkler systems.
Government slow to provide sprinkler cash
After making all the right noises following the Grenfell fire, the Government is now seemingly reluctant to pay towards sprinkler installation costs. With councils up and down the country making bids for cash, they are being told only ‘essential’ work will win funding. That is despite fire safety experts saying all high-rise flats should have sprinklers.
Birmingham is just one of the many housing providers to ask for cash.
‘Prudential borrowing’ an option
A report to the city council’s cabinet says: “The investment programme includes £19 million of planned expenditure relating to the retrofit of fire suppression systems (sprinklers) as a part of an overall three-year programme anticipated to cost £31m, in relation to which Central Government have been approached for a contribution of £19.4m towards these costs.
“In the event that this funding is not forthcoming, the costs will be funded through prudential borrowing.”
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