Southwark Council responds to Lakanal coroner's recommendations

14 May 2013

In a report to its Cabinet, Southwark Council has set out its planned responses to the coroner's recommendations following the inquests into the deaths of six people at Lakanal House in 2009.

Judge Frances Kirkham, the coroner for the inquests, wrote to Southwark Council in March, setting out a number of areas for improvement or change. Her Rule 43 letter was sent on 28 March and must be responded to within 56 days. The cabinet report will help to shape that response.

Cllr Ian Wingfield, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Housing, said: "The Lakanal inquests, and the Coroner's Rule 43 letter, gave Southwark and all other social landlords, many things to consider. We want to do all that we can to ensure maximum fire protection and safety following the tragic deaths at Lakanal, and of course we have already taken action to make our blocks safer.

"The majority of the Coroner's detailed recommendations cover areas where we have already made great progress, such as the creation of a dedicated and highly skilled fire safety team and the prioritisation of high-risk buildings for fire safety works; and things that can be swiftly implemented. For example, she challenged us to improve our signage and on-site information, and we are working with the London Fire Brigade to do that.

"In considering the Coroner's letter it has become clear that some recommendations raise more complex questions and are not things that Southwark can solve alone. There are legal obstacles that prevent us from carrying out some of the suggested work, and I will be writing to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to see how these can be overcome."

The report explains that there are two recommendations that have significant resourcing and legal implications and are of significance to all landlords of social rented housing. The first of these refers to the coroner's recommendation that the council should identify when individual flats or maisonettes should be inspected and how these should be selected for inspection.

Current law restricts councils to carrying out inspections of tenanted properties, preventing them from accessing leaseholder properties without the owner's permission. This access issue also affects the council's ability to carry out retrofitting of sprinklers in all individual properties.

The report also identifies the estimated cost of retro fitting of sprinkler systems in 10+ storey blocks, other known lower complex blocks, sheltered housing schemes and temporary accommodation to be approximately £59m.

The report recommends that officers carry out a full feasibility study into the retro-fitting of sprinklers in high rise blocks and report back to cabinet on the findings by November 2013.

Judge Kirkham also sent Rule 43 letters to the Fire Sector Federation, the London Fire Brigade and the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The report is subject to approval by Cabinet on Tuesday 14 May and is available to view online.

Page last updated: 01 December 2017