Birmingham to spend £31m on sprinklers in council’s tower blocks

More than 200 residential tower blocks in Birmingham are to have sprinklers fitted “as a matter of urgency” after the city council’s cabinet approved plans to install them.

The work is expected to cost £31m. It was initially approved last year but was held up when some councillors said decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis. Council leader Ian Ward said it was “clear no other system can match this for the prevention of deaths”. Mr Ward said it was “regrettable” that Prime Minister Theresa May had indicated no money will be made available centrally for councils to retrofit the sprinklers after he sent a cross-party letter requesting funding earlier this year. He added that experts including the chief fire officer of the West Midlands and the commissioner of the London Fire Brigade had endorsed the use of sprinklers.

The council has over 7,000 flats in 213 tower blocks across the city, although none of the council-owned tower blocks has the same controversial type of flammable cladding that was used on the Grenfell Tower. Overall it owns more than 60,000 homes making it the biggest council landlord in England.

The Government has approved a £400m funding programme to pay for the removal and replacement of dangerous cladding from social housing tower blocks, but has not approved the use of this money for other safety works such as retrofitting water sprinklers.