Additional £27m to fund alarms in buildings with Waking Watch

We welcome the news that there will be an additional £27m to fund alarms in buildings where a Waking Watch is in place, and that funding is finally to be extended to help innocent leaseholders in buildings below 18m and with non-cladding defects.

We have lobbied for this since the initial Waking Watch Relief Fund was announced in December 2020 and it was one of the asks we repeated to Mr Gove in November 2021 – we appreciate his recognition of, and desire to resolve, one of the many ways in which innocent ordinary people have been ripped off.

We first asked the Government to fund alarms in the middle of 2020 so this is another step in the right direction and evidence that Mr Gove may act to hold true the promises he has made since he became Secretary of State. However, the £27m is estimated to fund only 300 additional buildings – with 900 buildings reported as needing Waking Watch in London alone in July 2021, will these funds be truly sufficient to meet the actual need on the ground? The glacial pace of disbursement of funds in London must also be urgently improved to ensure this funding is delivered at true pace.

Whilst a sign of progress, there still must be urgent action to ensure all site staff, particularly the ineffective Evacuation Manager, are either removed or funded once an alarm is installed. We still have insufficient comfort that freeholders, and it seems some fire services, will not continue to insist on the immediate implementation of ineffective site patrols and / or evacuation management with leaseholders continuing to be on the hook for these unfair costs.

We request that Mr Gove closely reviews the recent ‘first of its kind judgement’ in the Morello Quarter legal case, where the imposition of a Waking Watch, without consideration of the impact on leaseholders, was adjudicated to be unreasonable. (See 26/01/2022 Inside Housing article: Residents successfully challenge waking watch notice in ‘first of its kind’ judgement.) The National Fire Chiefs Council must be persuaded to use that judgement as a precedent to ensure its guidance no longer enables freeholders to immediately instruct a waking watch with the primary aim of mitigating their liability rather than our safety.

We must also highlight the issue of residents having been forced to pay for interim measure and/or insurance and/or forced remediation costs in the years since the Grenfell tragedy and the ongoing way in which innocent people are barred from retrospective help simply due to timing. On 10th January, Mr Gove said that the focus is on averting additional costs in the future and “it will be difficult for us to make good all the injustices that have been visited” – difficult it may be, but impossible it is not. People’s life savings and building reserve funds have been drained in recent years – it would be moral and decent to return us to the position from which we started before our lives were blighted by this crisis.

Our longstanding position has always been that, where buildings are assessed to be unsafe, government funding should be available to protect us from all costs, whether for interim measures, insurance or remediation. This would be the true meaning of fairness. Our strategy will continue to be multi-layered – this will still involve action against the construction industry, whether through dialogue with institutional investors or direct action, but we will not remove our focus on the Government as the only entity that can truly and fairly resolve this crisis.

Government Press Release: Waking Watch Replacement Fund opens for applications (27 January 2022)

Waking Watch Replacement Fund Application Form


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