Will Forster

Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate in Woking, Deputy Mayor of Woking and Councillor for South Woking Learn more

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Lib Dems call for immediate action on fire safety in Surrey

by willforster on 9 July, 2017

The Lib Dems and I have called for a thorough review of fire safety in Surrey following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in North Kensington.

At least 80 people were killed in the blaze, with an unknown number of people still missing and unaccounted for.  The Surrey Fire and Rescue Service attended the incident to provide assistance to the London Fire Brigade, due to the sheer scale of the disaster.

Lib Dem Councillors at County Hall have called for:

– Surrey Fire and Rescue Service to be properly resourced,

– Fire safety audits to be carried out in Surrey at least every 12 months on buildings such as residential blocks, offices, shops and factories,

– Surrey Fire and Rescue Service to have access to equipment to reach the tallest buildings in the county,

– Housing blocks to be inspected which are also at risk of a similar incident,

– The County Council to endorse the Fire Brigades Union and National Union of Teachers campaign that each new school built in England should be automatically fitted with a sprinkler system.

Everyone’s thoughts are firstly with the family and friends of those who lost loved ones in this terrible tragedy, and our thanks must go to the Fire Brigade who did their best to tackle the blaze, including members of the Fire Service here in Surrey.

I think the Council’s energies must now go into trying to make sure that we do everything we can to minimise the risk of such an event happening again.  That is why the Lib Dem Group and I have therefore made a number of practical suggestions in order to try and improve fire safety within Surrey, such as increasing the number of fire safety audits carried out on tall or communal buildings in the county – this motion will be debated on Tuesday’s Full Council meeting.

One of the most shocking aspects of this disaster was that no fire service in the country had the necessary equipment to reach the top of Grenfell Tower.  That must change and quickly, especially with the increasing number of taller residential buildings that are being constructed in the UK.

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service also need the resources to do the job properly.  In the weeks and months ahead, the demands we place upon them will be ever greater and so we must make sure that this is reflected in the funding they receive.  They will be working with all of the boroughs and districts in Surrey looking at similar residential buildings, as well as office blocks, so the demand on their time and resource will inevitably increase.

The County Council should also look at new schools being built here in Surrey.  We want the Conservative-administration to endorse a campaign by the Fire Brigades Union and National Union of Teachers which calls for all new school buildings to be fitted with a sprinkler system.  Ithink that is a sensible and practical step forwards in trying to minimize the risk of a similar tragedy happening here in Surrey.

I look forward to working with colleagues from all parties on the Council in making sure that our buildings are safe places for our residents to live, work and learn in.  The lessons of the Grenfell Tower tragedy must be learnt by us all, so that mistakes made in the past will not be repeated in the future.

The Fire Brigades Union have passed a vote of no confidence in the Surrey Fire Authority because of underfunding.  Now is not the time for relations between the Council and Fire staff to be at rock bottom.  We need to see objective processes to ensure that the Fire and Rescue Service can keep residents safe and that they can achieve response times in line with other fire and emergency services.  It is essential that the Fire Brigade staff and the Fire Authority come together to produce a transparent approach to funding and performance targets so we can all sleep safely in our beds.

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