High rise fire alarm safety fund launched

Residents in high-rise buildings in Liverpool can now access financial support to help make their home safer.

Liverpool City Council has been allocated £0.5 million as part of a nationwide Waking Watch Relief Fund to help install fire alarms in high-rise buildings with unsafe cladding.

The fund, launched by the Government, is the latest measure to be introduced in response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

To be eligible for the fund, a high rise building must:

  • be in the private sector
  • be over 18 metres in height
  • have an unsafe cladding system
  • have a waking watch in place where these costs have been passed on to leaseholders

The fund has been designed to protect leaseholders from the high costs of Waking Watches, where a building is continually patrolled in case of a fire, by providing financial support for fire alarms, which will also make buildings safer in the long term.  

The Responsible Person (RP) – the person or business responsible for ensuring the safety of residents in their building – can apply for the fund and provide the evidence needed. The Responsible Persons are encouraged to speak to their local Fire and Rescue Service about the installation of the fire alarms in their building and to keep leaseholders informed.   

Liverpool City Council’s  Private Sector Housing Team will be administering the fund with all information available here – liverpool.gov.uk/buildingsafetyprogramme

Responsible persons making an application should email: wakingwatchfund@liverpool.gov.uk

The fund is not a substitute for swift remediation of unsafe cladding – for which the government has provided £1.6 billion in financial support.  

These measures are part of the government’s commitment to improve the safety of buildings across the country which will be enshrined in law through the Building Safety Bill in 2021. 

Around 95% of the highest risk buildings with unsafe cladding similar to that found on Grenfell Tower have been made safe or have work underway compared to a year ago; with 159 buildings starting work last year compared to 90 in 2019 – representing more buildings on site with remediation work in 2020 than at any point previously. 

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said:  “We know many people are anxious about the costs of waking watches, which was always only intended as an interim measure while historic safety issues were fixed.

“This fund will relieve the financial pressure on residents in these buildings and ensure they will be kept safe. I encourage those who are eligible not to delay and start their applications swiftly so we can distribute the funds as quickly as possible.”

Councillor Barry Kushner, Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet member for Housing, said: “The fact that leaseholders have been paying for waking watches since the Grenfell Tower tragedy is a national disgrace. Although I welcome this new fund, I am concerned that it is just not enough.

“The Government also needs to recognise that this does not include leaseholders in buildings below 18m high, and there is no financial support for them at all, and it doesn’t address the increases in insurance costs that leaseholders are also having to find.

“A huge amount of work has taken place in Liverpool to identify any high rise buildings with similar cladding to Grenfell and these are being addressed with support from the council and Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, and our private sector housing team will provide all the support they can to those making an application.

“For people living in high rise buildings with unsafe cladding not yet replaced they deserve peace of mind and a waking watch is not as reassuring as a fire alarm.”