Safety experts condemn CLG refit
Posted Fri, 09 Jul 2010
Safety experts have condemned the Government department in charge of the fire service after a £2.4 million refit of its headquarters was deemed to increase the risk of a blaze.
Following an inspection that found a series of "significant" failings in the communities and local government department offices, former department secretary John Denham was handed a "crown enforcement notice".
The inspection in February found a number of inadequacies such as a lack of staff training, and an insufficient fire-risk assessment.
There was also "no evidence" that fire extinguishers had been tested, and "no adequate arrangements" were in place to account for visitors coming to the building.
But some of the most serious concerns resulted from work on the atrium at CLG's Eland House building in London - which included the installation of £135,000-worth of designer sofas.
The refit - which also saw more than £72,000 spent on built-in, two-storey "peace pods" - has already been condemned by incoming coalition ministers as a waste of taxpayers' money.
But Fire Services Minister Bob Neill said the assessment showed it could also pose a serious safety risk to the 2,000 staff working there, accusing Labour of "shocking" failures.
The enforcement notice - issued by CLG's chief fire and rescue adviser Terry Martin - warned the refit had "resulted in the building being unlikely to perform as it was designed in the event of a fire and may lead to uncontrolled fire spread throughout the building".
Mr Martin also said the building was now "unable to support a phased evacuation" and gave Mr Denham until April 16 to remedy the failures.
Mr Neill said the requirements had all now been met and the enforcement notice signed off.
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Communities and Local Government