Greenwich Council put its tenants at risk over fire safety, regulator rules

Valley Grove in Charlton
Greenwich has avoided being punished by the regulator

Greenwich Council put its tenants at risk by failing to carry out fire safety inspections in hundreds of homes, a regulator has found.

The council also failed to carry out thousands of electrical inspections, neglected to fix over 300 high-risk problems with asbestos and did not assess water safety in 80 blocks.

The Regulator of Social Housing found that Greenwich breached safety rules but stopped short of issuing an enforcement notice, saying that it would monitor the town hall’s progress in fixing the problems.

“There was the potential for serious detriment to Greenwich’s tenants,” the regulator concluded.

Greenwich referred itself to the regulator earlier this year after discovering that its staff had failed to get a grip on issues such as damaged fire doors, cluttered communal areas and broken signage.

Councillors were told that Greenwich had not had a “regular and comprehensive programme” of electrical checks for the past decade, leading to a backlog of 13,000 inspections.

“Greenwich has started to put in place a programme to rectify these failures and has assured the regulator that it is taking action to remedy the breach of standard,” the regulator said, adding that it “will therefore not take statutory action at this stage”.

It said it would “work with Greenwich as it continues to address the issues which have led to this situation, including ongoing monitoring of how it delivers its programme”.

In July, Greenwich said: “We take residents’ safety extremely seriously and are currently rapidly addressing the backlog.”

However, Matt Hartley, the leader of the Conservative opposition, said yesterday that an apology was required.

“These are major failings by Greenwich Council, which represent a serious breach of trust. Residents need to be reassured that every category of safety failing in the regulator’s notice – electrical, fire, water and asbestos – are being addressed, and this work needs to be accelerated as quickly as possible,” he told 853.

“And I am still surprised there has been no public apology for this, after all these months. In my view, council tenants in our borough are owed a public apology from the very top – from the leader himself on behalf of the whole council – for what are serious safety failures that have potentially put lives at risk.”

In June, Pat Slattery, the cabinet member for housing, floated the possibility of increasing Greenwich’s rents – the cheapest in London – to pay for improvements to the borough’s tatty estates. Slattery said she feared the Labour council was “killing people with kindness” with such a low level of rents.

However, those plans may be dashed by the Conservative government, which is now planning to cap rent increases at well below the rate of inflation.


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