A lack of adequate fire safety in housing across Manchester is “completely unacceptable”, almost three years after the Grenfell tower tragedy.
The comments were made by Navendu Mishra MP in a parliamentary debate with Fire Minister James Brokenshire.
The Member of Parliament for Stockport also discussed the impact of a decade of austerity, which he said had left fire services “vulnerable and ill equipped” to protect citizens across Greater Manchester.
Mr Mishra told Mr Brokenshire that, more than 1,000 days since the events in west London claimed dozens of lives, 78 high-rise buildings across Greater Manchester have had to adopt interim safety measures because of serious fire safety deficiencies and the Government’s failure to remove life-threatening cladding.
“It is completely unacceptable that, in 2020, residents continue to live in housing that cannot protect them, while their fire services continue to face cuts which further put them at risk.
“This situation needs to be urgently addressed. As we have seen with the coronavirus crisis, underfunding key services leaves them vulnerable and ill-equipped to handle future challenges. I call on the Government to do all it can immediately to reverse year-on-year cuts, provide adequate funding so our fire service is fit for purpose and ensure all housing, including high-rise towers, are safe to live in.”
Explaining to Parliament that fire services across Greater Manchester had faced a decade of cuts that had “ravaged central funding”, resulting in fewer firefighters and equipment, in addition to slower response times, Mr Mishra said:
“(The cuts have) had a crippling effect, resulting in 11,000 fewer fire service personnel, reducing the fire service’s capacity by a staggering 20% and putting people’s lives further in jeopardy.
“In Greater Manchester alone in the past five years, critical funding has fallen by more than 15%, which in cash terms amounts to a £10m cut that our services have had to absorb, and since 2010 is a one-third reduction.
“And that’s not just reducing bureaucracy and red tape; that’s cutting firefighters who are battling blazes and saving lives on a daily basis. In Greater Manchester there are now 29% fewer firefighters, combined with a 14% reduction in life-saving fire equipment. The picture is truly bleak.”
Mr Mishra also took time to pay tribute to the ‘Manchester Cladiators’, a group of residents who have organised to campaign for the Government to replace life-threatening cladding, including the flammable aluminium composite material cladding that was used on Grenfell tower.
“They have campaigned tirelessly to make their voice heard amid continuing government delays and indecision and I would like to take this opportunity to applaud them for the work they have done to keep this issue at the forefront of everyone’s minds.”