Councillor Georgia Gould, Leader of Camden Council, responds to concerns raised by Tulip Siddiq MP

Please see Councillor Georgia Gould, Leader of Camden Council letter to Tulip Siddiq MP in response to concerns she raised on behalf of Chalcots residents today:

Dear Tulip.

I understand that this continues to be a distressing time for residents from the Chalcots Estate and the council maintains its complete focus on ensuring that we do everything in our power to reassure residents about the safety of their buildings.

As you know the safety of residents is my first priority. It was why I took the decision to evacuate the blocks on fire brigade advice and have worked closely with them ever since.

The Council and I have been working day and night to both support and reassure residents. This includes making it very clear that we will not be moving people back into the blocks until the London Fire Brigade, we, and independent building control specialists are all satisfied that enhance safety measures are complete.

On Wednesday this week the LFB made an onsite inspection at Chalcot and confirmed that they are “content that sufficient progress has been made to allow a phased re-occupation of the buildings”.

Their full statement is as follows:

“Our highly trained Inspecting Officers, have been working very closely with Camden Council since it was discovered that essential works were required in these four buildings on the Charcot Estate. We subsequently agreed a list of works required which would improve the general fire precautions in the building such as to mitigate the risks from fire.

“There will be further work to undertake but the Brigade is content that sufficient progress has been made to allow a phased re-occupation of the buildings. The phasing of the re-occupation will be dependent on the completion of works to each floor of the buildings, starting with the lower floors.”

Lambeth Council building control teams have been supporting Camden officers, helping to check and benchmark the urgent works which have allowed us to advise a return. I have attached a letter from them. 

As we have previously discussed I promised to let residents move back as soon as the buildings were confirmed as safe and this is what we are doing - done on a floor-by-floor basis, starting from the ground floors up, as advised by the London Fire Brigade.

We understand that this has been a very difficult time and we have outreach workers ready to support people to move home in a way that works for them.

Family outreach and social work teams will be on hand to help residents move where this is needed and help will be provided with transport and moving possessions.

The Council’s fire warden service will continue patrols on the estate.

If despite our reassurances and resources for residents, you still have individuals coming to you with concerns, can you please ask them to contact my office at [email protected] so that we can support them further?

The Council has worked tirelessly to ensure that residents have been fully supported during this difficult period. Our support offer to them has included alternative or hotel accommodation, a one off payment of £100 per resident for any expenses they incurred as a result of the evacuation and a daily subsistence allowance. Residents will not be charged rent or Council Tax for the period that they were unable to access their properties. Rent charges and Council Tax will only resume on July 24th when all of the flats are available for residents to move back in.

I am committed to leading a new era in resident safety in Camden and part of this includes being open with the information we hold. Our response will be an ongoing process, and together with the support and insight of tenants, leaseholders and the fire service on our new Fire Safety Panel, we’ll seek to identify and rectify fire safety concerns earlier, make all future fire risk assessments public and adopt the latest guidance for safety in tower blocks. We published Fire Risk Assessment documents for the Chalcots buildings on our website on Wednesday and will be publishing FRAs for all our council high-rise buildings online in the coming weeks.

The fire risk assessments provide a snapshot of fire safety at the point in time at which they were carried out. They come with an action plan showing points that need to be addressed and timescales which the report specifies for the completion of those works.

An independent review of the Chalcots evacuation will also get underway in August, once Chalcots residents are back in their homes and have agreed the terms of the review.

It's clear that both here and across the country, there needs to be a renewed focus on safety, with no compromises. I know you agree that the safety of residents is my first priority and I would not be allowing a return to the estate unless I had the appropriate assurances from the fire service and from building control experts.

Yours sincerely,

Councillor Georgia Gould, Leader of Camden Council