Page last updated at 14:00 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:00 UK

More 'danger' tower blocks found

By Ed Davey
BBC News, London

Lakanal House in Camberwell on fire (pic: Christian Landles)
Lakanal House had no fire risk assessment - six people died

A further 182 tower blocks in London have been found which have not been checked for fire safety, bringing the total to nearly 500, the BBC has learned.

Councils are required by law to carry out fire risk assessments on social housing high-rise blocks.

But several more councils have now told BBC London they have not done so, including Hackney where 129 are still unchecked - the city's highest total.

A retired firefighter told the BBC it was "essential" to carry out "need to know" assessments to ensure safety.

On 3 July Lakanal House in Southwark, south London, which had not undergone a such a risk assessment, caught fire killing six people.

But a BBC London investigation has now found 10 councils have not been meeting their responsibilities under rules brought in 2005.

Risk assessments may be about ticking boxes - but they are boxes that are very important to tick
Bob Wilkinson firefighter

High-rise tower blocks have either not had a risk assessment carried out during major refurbishments - or have never had one done.

Almost 100 of Hackney's tower blocks fall into the latter category.

A Hackney Council spokeswoman said: "Where we have not carried out a fire risk assessment, we have scheduled time to do this in the near future.

"We are undertaking monthly visual inspections of the blocks for fire safety as well as daily checks undertaken by cleaners."

Bob Wilkinson, a retired firefighter with 20 years' experience in London, said of the situation in Hackney: "That is a lot of flats that they are risking.

"Carrying out risk assessments is what you would call common sense back in the old days."

He continued: "Risk assessments may be about ticking boxes - but they are boxes that are very important to tick.

"Councils need to separate what is 'nice-to-know' with what is 'need-to-know'."

Taking responsibility

He added: "Fire safety is a 'need-to-know' issue."

During the investigation it has become clear that no single body - government, fire service or local authorities - takes responsibility for providing a clear picture of whether tower blocks are fire checked.

ANALYSIS
Kurt Barling
Kurt Barling, BBC London Special Correspondent
The lessons from Lakanal cannot wait until police investigations are completed, nor inquests held. Our investigations show there are serious systemic shortcomings in complying with regulations. A third of London's boroughs have an up-to-date fire assessment record. It is possible to get the work done. Surely the law becomes an ass if it is consistently ignored?

A total of 482 blocks without valid fire risk assessments been found during the research so far.

The figure does not include tower blocks in Southwark, which has not responded to a Freedom of Information request.

Southwark, which has had fire enforcement notices served on it in the aftermath of the Lakanal House fire, said providing information about its stock may "prejudice" the official enquiry into the tragedy.

Since the initial request two months ago, 26 London councils have now provided answers, with the remainder committing themselves to doing so by Friday.

The full results will then be published on the BBC News website.

Following the BBC's initial disclosure that 110 tower blocks in Lambeth, south London, had no assessment, the Liberal Democrat opposition have challenged the Labour-run council to do the work within one month.

Councillor Ashley Lumsden said: "Labour in Lambeth are taking risks with the lives of tenants.

"But it's time for the council to clean up its act, carry out the fire assessments and start the work of making our council blocks safe places to live."



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