Cladding Crisis: Government announces £30m fund to help pay for fire patrols

17 December 2020, 10:26 | Updated: 17 December 2020, 11:04

Rachael Venables

By Rachael Venables

After questions from LBC, the Government has announced a ' £30m fund to help end the scandal of excessive waking watch costs'.

Yesterday I broke the news that a staggering £12 million is being spent in London every single month on 'waking watches,' due to the on-going cladding crisis.

These are 24/7 fire wardens who patrol buildings with fire-safety problems, aiming to raise the alarm and get everyone out in the event of a fire.

Robert Jenrick was quizzed on LBC, and he promised help was on the way.

And now we have it, a £30m pot of money - the 'Waking Watch Relief Fund.'

From January, buildings can apply for funding to install linked-up alarm systems that would negate, or reduce, the need for human-watchers.

The Government think it would save individuals a combined £3m a month.

We don't know how many buildings they expect to apply, nor how long it will take to release the money.

But, personal experience suggests alarm systems tend to cost flat-owners anything between £1,000-£1,500 per household.

As the bills for these wardens get bigger every single day.

We have also heard that the deadline for buildings to apply for part of a £1bn fund to remove the cladding from their homes has been extended, from the 31st December to June 2021.

Although, a note of caution; it’s thought the real cost to fix all of the UK’s afflicted buildings, could be somewhere between £15bn and £30bn.

So while there’s no doubt, some will be helped by the Government putting its hand in its pocket, many more will still have to fund these extortionate bills themselves.

Have you been impacted by the Cladding Crisis? We want to hear your stories, email: cladding@lbc.co.uk to get in touch with one of the team.

"Waking watches" are costing £12 million a month in London alone - and much of the cost is being passed to resident
"Waking watches" are costing £12 million a month in London alone - and much of the cost is being passed to resident. Picture: LBC

As we reported yesterday £12 million is being spent every month in London on fire wardens patrolling buildings with fire safety issues like dangerous cladding.

Speaking with LBC's Nick Ferrari on Wednesday about the issue, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said help "could be on the way" for properties over the dangerous cladding, and admitted leaseholders were "completely blameless" for the issues caused by cladding.

This morning the Government has announced the new fund which will help to will pay for the installation of fire alarm systems in high-rise buildings with cladding, removing or reducing the need for costly safety measures such as ‘waking watches’.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said he has spoken first-hand to leaseholders who have told him of the "misery that rip-off waking watch costs have been bringing to residents of high-rise buildings with cladding."

The Minister said he was announcing the £30m Waking Watch Relief Fund to "help relieve the financial pressure on those residents and to ensure they are safe."

He added he was confident the measure would "make a real difference to worried leaseholders up and down the country this Christmas."

"We have continued to prioritise the removal of unsafe ACM cladding throughout the pandemic and expect around 95% of remediation work will have been completed or be underway by the end of this year," Mr Jenrick said.

The move has been welcomed by the National Fire Chief's Council (NFCC), the Chair Roy Wilsher said: “We welcome this new Waking Watch Relief Fund, which will help to reduce the financial burden for some leaseholders having to fund the costs of waking watches.

“It has been our firm and long held expectation that building owners should move to install common fire alarms as quickly as possible and this funding is a positive step.”