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HRA flexibilities hinted at for fire safety works 12/10/2017 Labelled as Finance

The Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, in giving evidence to the Communities & Local Government Committee on 11 October said that the government will not provide direct funding to councils to help pay for retro-fitting of sprinklers and other fire safety work but may consider increased borrowing flexibilities.


The Secretary of State reported that 260 high rise buildings in England had failed the "large scale panel tests" carried out by the Building Research Establishment (BRE), of which 165 are social housing blocks owned by local authorities or housing associations.


Up to now, the government has repeatedly said they expect councils to fund fire safety works and to draw on their existing resources to do so, and that any councils with concerns about funding essential fire safety measures should contact the Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG) to discuss their concerns.


In response to questions from the Select Committee, the Secretary of State said that, where appropriate, councils who need it may be allowed increased borrowing freedoms within the Housing Revenue Account and in "one or two" cases, the power to switch funding from the councils General Fund to pay for fire safety work to high rise blocks, but reiterated that the government is not planning to provide direct funding in the form of grant.


The Secretary of State reported that some 31 local authorities had asked for assistance in paying for fire safety measures following the Grenfell Tower fire and that the government is in "detailed discussions" with six of those.


The Secretary of State also said that he expected to be in a position to bring forward the Housing Green Paper "in the first quarter of next year".


Watch the Secretary of State's evidence to the Select Committee.

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