Each council-owned high rise block in Leeds could soon have its own “block champion”, according to a report going before Leeds councillors next week, writes local democracy reporter Richard Beecham.
The suggestions follow a review of the safety of the authority’s residential blocks, which took place in December 2017 following that summer’s Grenfell fire in London.
Earlier this year, MP Rachel Reeves called for Government action following a fire at the Poplar Court high rise in Bramley – the 13th fire in the four Poplar blocks in three years.
The report outlines work that has taken place since, adding that the council’s housing management service, Housing Leeds, had improved communication between itself and residents.
“Immediately following the Grenfell fire, Housing Leeds held engagement sessions at all Leeds City Council owned high rise blocks across the city to outline what the council was doing to ensure resident safety and to respond to resident concerns.
“It was clear from these sessions that many residents were not aware of much of the activity undertaken by the Council to manage high rise or of service standards linked to activities. A key priority during 2018 has been to improve the way that we share information and engage with all residents living in high rise.”
It added that the council was looking at a “block champion” approach, meaning each block would have one resident who could help communicate information and concerns between the council and the block tenants.
The report also said the council’s housing service, Housing Leeds, was currently fitting sprinklers in tower blocks. It said:
“Housing Leeds had already prepared a programme to retrospectively fit sprinklers to eight multi-storey high rise sheltered blocks.
“To expand this initiative to a number of higher risk general needs blocks, £10m has been made available from the capital programme to fund further sprinkler installations. This is progressing well to programme with the work being undertaken by Leeds Building Agency.
“Good resident engagement with residents in the blocks has led to high access rates and very positive customer satisfaction.”
The report will be discussed by members of the council’s environment, housing and communities scrutiny board on Wednesday, October 3.