LBWF and fire safety at Northwood Tower: yet more jiggery-pokery?

The antics of LBWF never cease to amaze and (for those who appreciate dark humour) amuse.

A fresh example has just emerged.

In the last few years, fire safety at the 21 floor, 99 flat, Northwood Tower in Walthamstow has been a cause for concern.  Thus, when LBWF’s agent, Ridge, carried out a Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) for 2018-19, it identified the need for 65 remedial measures, and assessed the building to be at ‘substantial risk’, meaning ‘Improvements should be undertaken urgently’.

A year later, Ridge had gone, to be replaced by the controversial S3 Environmental (see previous posts), and it was the latter that carried out the next FRA, to cover 2019-20.

As S3 Environmental saw it, the ‘Premises Risk Rating’ was now ‘Moderate’, but nevertheless justified the following warning: ‘It is essential that efforts are made to reduce the risk. Risk reduction measures should be implemented within a defined time period. Where moderate risk is associated with consequences that constitute extreme harm, further assessment might be required to establish more precisely the likelihood of harm’.

The latter point was obviously of some importance, and so LBWF was persuaded to put together an action plan, and, as part of this, commission not one, but two, new FRAs.

 Subsequently, the action plan was updated, and amongst other things, it was recorded that the two FRAs now had been completed, both on 4 April 2020:

Screenshot 2020-09-01 at 18.34.16

So far, so good. But when a Freedom of Information Act request was submitted to see these FRAs, on 29 August 2020 LBWF declined to comply, justifying itself as follows:

 ‘With reference to your FOI enquiry…I can confirm that Waltham Forest Council are only carrying out Type1 and Type 4 Fire Risk Assessments, the reference to a Type 2 Fire Risk Assessment was an error.

In reference to the Type 4 Fire Risk Assessment the Council has applied section 36, FOI Act 2000 and is withholding the information requested until the FRA4 has been finalised and published to Residents living in the homes to which the request relates to’.

Two points arise.

First, looking closely at the updated action plan document already referred to shows that it was created on 23 June 2020 at 12.47.

So in a roughly nine week period, LBWF has gone from asserting that a Type 2 FRA had not only been commissioned, but actually completed, to admitting that all of this was ‘an error’.

Football fans invariably chant at incompetent referees, ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’, and such derision seems merited here.

The episode also prompts the question: if LBWF can get such an important detail so completely wrong, what else has it messed up?

Then there’s the matter of LBWF’s claimed solicitousness for Northwood residents, its insistence that they should be apprised of the new Type 4 FRA’s contents before general release.

At first sight such prioratisation seems half-way reasonable. However, it is notable that, first, the same approach is not applied in other policy areas; and second, as regards fire safety, solicitousness rarely has been much in evidence previously.

To illustrate the latter point, it is now public knowledge that the 2018-19 Ridge FRA made this observation about all Northwood flat entrance doors:

Screenshot 2020-08-31 at 15.57.13

However, at the time of the FRA’s completion, was such information shared in all its disturbing detail with residents? From what can be established by talking to informed local sources, the answer is no. Can keeping the unvarnished truth away from those most closely involved be called solicitous? Again, the answer must be no.

So, the suspicion arises that LBWF’s main aim currently is to head off controversy. Having been previously caught with its pants down over fire safety, with the Waltham Forest Echo leading the way in exposing the tawdry realities, it wants to ‘control the narrative’, that is, ensure that its own version of the situation at Northwood is the one that gains traction, and awkward questions are marginalised.

And given the seriousness of the issue, if that is in fact the case, it can only be called disgraceful.

Related Posts

Fire safety at LBWF’s Northwood Tower in Walthamstow: a further chapter in a long-running and dismal story

LBWF and fire hazards in its housing stock: the appalling case of Northwood Tower in Walthamstow (3)

LBWF and fire hazards in its housing stock: the appalling case of Northwood Tower in Walthamstow (2)

LBWF and fire hazards in its housing stock: the appalling case of Northwood Tower in Walthamstow (1)

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