Theresa May’s new chief of staff ‘sat on’ a review of fire safety in tower blocks like Grenfell Tower

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Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May and Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell.
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Reuters

LONDON – Theresa May’s new chief of staff Gavin Barwell reportedly “sat on” a report as housing minister warning that tower blocks such as Grenfell Tower – where a huge blaze claimed several lives on Tuesday night – were vulnerable to deadly fires.

Then-housing minister Gavin Barwell committed last year to review part B of the Building Regulations 2010, which pertains to fire safety, but the review was delayed, according to trade journal Fire Risk Management.

A spokesman insisted that a review would take place “in due course,” but it failed to materialise.

Experts repeatedly warned the government’s delays were endangering tower blocks throughout the UK following a 2009 blaze at Lakanal House, a tower block in south London, which claimed the lives of six people.

The coroner’s subsequent investigation, published in 2013, found problems with fire safety procedures and the building’s fire resistance and made a series of recommendations which were supposed to form part of the full review.

“You’d have to ask them why they’ve sat on it for four years”

Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick, who was a firefighter for over 20 years, told LBC Radio on Wednesday that the Lakanal House fire should have been a “wake-up call.”

“You’d have to ask them why they’ve sat on it for four years,” he said.

He said the government had resisted calls to install sprinkler systems in tower blocks which could have prevented the blaze.

Barwell lost his seat as an MP at last week’s general election as the Conservatives failed to win a majority. He was defeated in Croydon Central by Labour’s Sarah Jones.

He has replaced Prime Minister Theresa May’s joint chiefs of staff Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill at Downing Street, who both resigned on Saturday after a volley of criticism was launched against them for the disastrous campaign.