It was good to see BBC Newsnight recently focus in on the building safety crisis which is having a devastating impact upon the lives of countless Londoners and many people here in Southwark, writes Marina Ahmad AM…
As of July, there were 65 buildings in the borough where ‘stay put’ fire safety guidance had been temporarily suspended and replaced by a simultaneous evacuation policy.
This means that construction defects have been found in a building, such as unsafe cladding, which would allow a fire to spread quickly. Where this is the case, evacuating every resident one by one in the event of a fire has been deemed the safest option.
Many of these buildings will also require a waking watch which is adding to the huge bill that hundreds of local leaseholders are being burdened with because of a crisis that is not their responsibility. With the government and developers failing to put in the financial support needed to make these homes safe, leaseholders are also footing the eye-watering costs for remediation works, rising insurance premiums and EWS1 forms.
This really is a scandal of unprecedented proportions and over four years on from Grenfell, we are still sadly not seeing enough urgent action being taken on it. This is something I’ll continue to press for.
In much more positive news, it has been fantastic to see the mayor recently award Southwark Council £126 million to start delivering over 850 affordable and social rent homes in the borough over the next five years.
To tackle the building safety crisis, each new block of flats built under the programme will have sprinklers or other fire suppression systems in place. A ban on combustible materials being used in the external walls of new residential developments will also be in place.
Every new home funded by City Hall must also be environmentally sustainable to help London hit its net-zero target by 2030, whilst providing private outdoor space for its occupants.
London Assembly meetings are now back in session after the August break. During the latest Plenary meeting, I was pleased to see my motion pass calling on the Mayor to put pressure on the government to stop their planned cut to the £20 weekly uplift to Universal Credit.
As I said in my speech to the Assembly, this extra £20 can often mean the difference between ensuring there is enough food on the table and putting the heating on for many local families and households struggling during the pandemic. In these difficult times, it is a lifeline that should be made permanent.
Finally, I am encouraging all eligible local community groups to apply for Southwark Council’s new £1m fund to support activities and positive opportunities for young people.