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Grenfell fire: No government money for council improvements

Grenfell tower after fireImage copyright Getty Images

The government will not “automatically” fund fire safety measures for councils, Chancellor Philip Hammond has said.

Mr Hammond said that money for works ordered in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy in west London will be available only as the “last resort”.

Instead, the chancellor will remove rules which ring-fence some parts of council budgets to allow local authorities to use their own money.

However, he insisted that all “safety-critical” changes would be made.

Speaking to MPs, Mr Hammond said he had asked councils that said they did not have the money to set out details of the shortfall, but that none has yet done so.

The chancellor said the government would act when it was certain that a council “genuinely does not have any available resource”.

The measures could include the removal of flammable cladding and retrofitting sprinkler systems in council- owned tower blocks.

Councils said many of the changes had been recommended by local fire services.

On 16 June, two days after the Grenfell fire which claimed at least 60 lives, Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid pledged that the government would “do whatever it takes” to improve safety in tower blocks.

Yet several councils have already complained that money has not been forthcoming.

The leader of the Labour opposition group on Westminster City Council, Adam Hug, said the local authority had struggled to secure funding from Mr Javid’s department to pay for the removal of cladding and the installation of sprinklers.

“Ultimately these are things that the London Fire Brigade says have to be done and ultimately the cost is having to be borne by the housing revenue account, which is tenants’ rents and service charge fees,” Mr Hug said.

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