Portsmouth won’t foot the £260k bill to fund fire wardens at city tower blocks, council insists

Leamington House in Portsmouth
Leamington House in Portsmouth
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PAYING for fire wardens to guard two city tower blocks after flammable cladding panels were removed from them has cost £260,000, The News can exclusively reveal.

Portsmouth City Council has splashed out on the safety measure, which saw fire wardens monitoring Horatia House and Leamington House, in Somers Town.

At least two privately-hired wardens from MG Security were on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week from Friday, June 23, 2017 until June 5 of this year.

But information gathered from a freedom of information request has revealed it has cost the city council about £260,000 to fund the measure.

But the city’s housing boss, Councillor Darren Sanders, has insisted it will be the government that foots the bill – not the taxpayer.

He said residents’ safety was the authority’s ‘top priority’ and that the work had to be done, adding: ‘Residents have told me they have found it reassuring to have the wardens in the blocks. ‘

He continued: ‘The government has confirmed funding will be available to recover the costs of removing the cladding from these buildings and the cost of the fire wardens is included within this.’

The revelation comes a week after the authority broke the news it would be forcing about 800 people living in the block to move amid fears over the high-rises’ weak concrete structure.

Council sources say the work to strengthen the concrete used to build the 1960s tower blocks could run into the millions – with no assurance Whitehall will stump up the cash, piling extra strain on city coffers.

Prime Minister Theresa May previously announced a £400m fund for local authorities to deal with cladding – about £10m is expected to Portsmouth to fund its cladding scheme.