London Assembly members have called on Sadiq Khan to boycott developers and housing associations that have failed to take action to protect leaseholders in fire risk properties following the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017.
Conservative and Green AMs teamed up with Liberal Democrat colleagues at today’s Assembly plenary session to back a motion proposed by newly-elected Lib Dem Hina Bokhari which urged the Mayor to do more for residents in the 590 high-rise blocks in the city currently living with fire-risk cladding.
“Of course the government needs to do more,” Bokhari said. “Yet it is too easy just to call on the government. We need to look at the levers and powers the Mayor has to ensure far more is done. We need the Mayor to couple warm words with action.”
The motion also called on Khan to set up a fire safety victims support hub to “provide mental health and practical advice” to affected leaseholders and trial a voluntary public fire safety risk assessment register for residential properties in the capital.
Londoners were being “held to ransom” by developers, Bokhari said. “With an affordable housing budget of over £4 billion, the Mayor could send a clear message to developers by refusing to work with those who are yet to take action to remediate fire safety issues in their existing stock.”
However, Labour AM Leonie Cooper warned that the motion risked “letting the government off the hook”. She added: “The building safety scandal is a national scandal that needs a national solution. It is up to the government to ensure that leaseholders have the protection they need.”
In addition, a boycott of developers would “pit the needs of homeless families against the needs of leaseholders,” Cooper said. And while Khan continues to lobby Whitehall and support leaseholders’ calls for action, City Hall lacks the powers or resources to implement the motion’s other proposals. “None of the asks are about making buildings safer,” added Labour AM Anne Clarke. The motion was carried, with Labour AMs abstaining.
Earlier in the meeting Khan’s deputy mayor for planning Jules Pipe confirmed that fire safety requirements for new developments set out in City Hall’s London Plan, covering means of escape, alarms, sprinklers and evacuation procedures, were now stricter than the national rules.
He agreed with Labour AM Sakina Sheikh that current national building regulations are not tight enough to ensure another Grenfell tragedy. “They don’t go anywhere near far enough to get to where we need to be,” he said. “We need a wholesale review.”
Watch today’s Assembly plenary in full here.
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