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HomeNewsHousingExclusive: At least £16 million bill for Marie Curie fire safety work

Exclusive: At least £16 million bill for Marie Curie fire safety work

Making Lakanal House’s sister block fire safety compliant and rehousing residents forced to leave during the upcoming major works could cost Southwark Council over sixteen million, according to a new report published this week.

More than a decade since the devastating Lakanal House fire that claimed the lives of six people, Southwark Council is still grappling with extensive and as yet unresolved fire safety problems in Camberwell’s Sceaux Gardens estate.

Documents prepared for Tuesday’s cabinet meeting updated councillors and officers on the extent of the work needed, timeframe, and how and when tenants and leaseholders will be moved out – and where.

It revealed that the overwhelming majority of tenants wanted to leave and not go back; with just four deciding to exercise their right of return out of 82.

Marie Curie has 98 flats, of which 82 house council tenants and eleven are owned by leaseholders. There are now five empty properties in the block.

By the end of August this year, only three tenants so far had accepted an offer of permanent accommodation within the borough, and around seven properties have been turned down.

The cost implications on the council’s already stretched finances are huge. Putting a ‘waking watch’ in place between November 2020 and June 2022 will cost over half a million in total, while rehoming costs are estimated at £10,000 per tenant, of which there are 85. Add on other the lump sum inconvenience payment and other moving costs and the council has already budgeted an expenditure of £840,000 for relocation alone. The council has also set aside £45,000 to pay for two new ‘resident services officer’ jobs to help manage this process.

Each of the eleven leaseholder properties are estimated – by the council – to be valued “in the region of £290,000”. Including fees and other duties or taxes this could easily reach up to £311,900 per home if bought back – a total cost of £3.4 million. And this is before the major works are even factored in. Early feasibility studies set a figure at £12.2 million – excluding fees. A further financial review is underway with a final budget due to be agreed in October.

These figures appear to show that even a conservative, early estimate would put the entire project at over sixteen million.

The big unanswered question, however, is why the problems afflicting the block, and the extent of work required, has only come to light in the last year despite similar work being previously completed on Lakanal; implying it was a known risk in Marie Curie.  On this subject, the report says: “An independent review is being commissioned to review Marie Curie with a view to a report being provided towards the end of 2021.”

The first phase of work is due to begin in January next year, with the second starting after the block is fully empty from around June 2022. It includes updating window panels, balconies, roofing work, ventilation, internal and external refurbishment and redecoration, but also compartmentalisation and fire safety works and asbestos removal.

The gas supply will also be removed and an ‘automated fire suppression system’ installed – for example sprinklers or a misting system.  Key issues include now non-compliant external wall panels, a communal stairwell that “doesn’t meet current requirements for a single communal escape staircase”, and risers and ducts that need to be fully fire-stopped or completely replaced if found to be made from combustible material.

 

What the council is offering tenants and leaseholders

 

The report is the first time the council has publicly provided significant details on its relocation offer for tenants and leaseholders alike.

It explains that tenants can either temporarily move and then have the right to return to their homes, or will be offered a first refusal to move permanently into alternative accommodation in the estate’s newly built block; Cezanne House, or elsewhere.

Tenants will be entitled to the same size home, for both temporary and permanent moves, even if they were previously ‘under occupying’; though they can choose to downsize and will be eligible for the same ‘smart move’ payment.

A household that meets the definition of ‘overcrowded’ will be entitled to a larger home but would have to move elsewhere permanently, as Marie Curie only has two-bed homes; likely a major factor in the number choosing not to return.

The council had previously committed to offer all residents a ‘lump sum’ inconvenience payment of £6,500. It has now confirmed that arrears and other debts owed to the local authority will be deducted from this figure.

This does not include ‘reasonable’ moving costs which will also be covered by the council, The report goes on to confirm: “For temporary moves – rent will be no more than is paid at Marie Curie, although service charge may be different.

“If a tenant moves back to Marie Curie after work is completed there may be changes to service charges.

“For permanent moves – rent will be the amount usually charged for the property allocated.”

Leaseholders, the council will offer to buy back the Marie Curie property or provide them with temporary accommodation and the right to return.

They will not have to pay rent on their new, temporary home, but will need to pay council tax and service charges, with no council tax or service charge payable on Marie Curie property during this period – though they would need to continue paying any mortgage.

Resident leaseholders, as opposed to owners who live elsewhere, are also entitled to the moving cost lump sum.

If a resident leaseholder does decide to sell up and leave, the council will cover solicitors fees, surveyors fees, mortgage redemption and redirection of post.

Private tenants who let flats owned by leaseholders are also entitled to some, but more limited, financial support.

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1 COMMENT

  1. I understand that southwark Council need to make that building fire safety but do they really need to rehouse them knowing there a housing problem can the family stay there and have the build stuff done ,it just makes the whole problem even wrost by moving the family out ,just to move the back ,but when that happens some family must not to more but ,there over nearly 10000 family that need a home but southwark Council won’t to move them family out of that building till it gets done ,so what’s happens to all the other family that are waiting on the list ,they get push but till that building is fire safety that is mad

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