SAFETY has been taken more seriously in South Yorkshire than where the Grenfell Tower fire happened, according to shadow housing minister John Healey.
The Wentworth and Dearne MP visited the west London site of the blaze, which took more than 70 lives, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn last Thursday.
Both Rotherham and Barnsley councils have provided reassurance that funds meant to be tied to housing were not being spent on other matters, which Mr Healey said had happened at Kensington and Chelsea Council.
Rotherham’s only high rise tower block, the Beeversleigh flats in Clifton, had sprinklers fitted last year as part of a £3 million refurbishment which also included a new heating system.
Tom Bell, RMBC’s assistant director of housing, said: “Our thoughts are with all of those affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy and we know that people living in similar accommodation up and down the country will be understandably shaken and concerned.
“Council officers have moved swiftly to reassure residents and have made an additional visit to Beeversleigh to reaffirm that risks have been minimised and the council has met the standards set out in The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
“The council is also carrying out extra checks on all its group dwellings to again reaffirm standards and provide extra reassurance.”
Mr Healey said: “It looks like our South Yorkshire councils have shown more concern than appears to be the case with Kensington and Chelsea.”
The scene at Grenfell was a mix of the horror of the fire and the amazing community spirit which came after, the MP said.
“I have never seen anything like it,” added Mr Healey.
“The community support centres were flooded with food and clothing and shoes and love. The bags of donations couldn’t all fit inside, they were in the car parks and yards outside.
“The spirit was extraordinary and it wasn’t just local people.
“One of the first people I met when we were inside the controlled area was a volunteer from Berkshire who had got a train after seeing the fire on TV and had been helping frontline firefighters and police for 30 hours.
“Nothing prepares you for how dreadful it is up close.
“This was 36 hours on and fires were still breaking out, chunks were blowing off the building very close to us and there was a sour stench.
“Firefighters of 30 years were saying they hadn’t known anything like it.”
A public inquiry into Grenfell has been ordered by Prime Minister Theresa May but Mr Healey said another report on the emerging issues should be carried out this summer.
“The Government should act now on recommendations that have been with them for four years,” he added.
“They can start now to install sprinkler systems in the highest risk high rise blocks and overhaul building regulations on fire safety.
“The inquiry report could be a couple of years but instead of sitting back, there are things the Government could do and I will be pressing them to act.”
Mr Healey has written to Sajid Javid, communities and local government secretary, over claims made by Panorama that ministers ignored warnings of inadequate fire safety regulations.
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