Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Post Grenfell Fire: Dispelling Sprinkler Myths

This evening I took part as a Newham Councillor in a "Fire Safety in Tower Blocks Scrutiny Commission" meeting. It was actually a mostly positive and constructive meeting but for some bizarre reason was held in secret and I cannot report on it. 

I will be taking this up with the Newham CEO. 

However, I thought this recent "promotion" in Inside Housing regarding retro installation of Sprinklers is interesting even though this was paid for by suppliers of such systems

I am so far a fan of retrofitting of blocks with sprinklers but let's see what happens during the Scrutiny.

"Following the tragic Grenfell fire, there have been numerous questions surrounding the retrospective installation of sprinkler systems to tower blocks. Should sprinklers be installed to all tower blocks? Are they cost effective?

Carol Burton, Senior Project Manager at Basildon Borough Council would certainly agree. Following a number of arson related incidents, the Council worked closely with Essex County Fire and Rescue Service to agree the most appropriate way forward to minimise the spread of fire to its dwellings.

In January 2016, following a competitive tender process, Basildon Borough Council installed sprinkler systems across the 84 flats at Brooke House – a Grade II Listed tower block in the centre of Basildon. Works were completed within 26 weeks, with a resident satisfaction rate of 100%.

Various options regarding the type of suppression system were investigated to identify the most effective for the type of fires that had occurred within and around Council premises, and provide the best value for money. The system installed was considered the most appropriate for the size of building, the cost of creating and installing water tank storage, the water pressure in the area, available technology at the time, and the fact that at the time of original design there was still no published British Standard for water mist systems – only a draft document.

Since their installation there have been no false activations or complaints regarding water damage – both common concerns regarding sprinkler systems. Basildon Borough Council now also plan to install sprinklers at the Felmores Estate, with work beginning by early 2018.
The main challenges faced by the Council were dispelling the common myths regarding sprinkler systems to gain resident support. Through joint resident meetings with Essex County Fire and Rescue, the Council were able to dispel a number of myths, including:

MYTH: The sprinklers will be activated by smoke and cause unnecessary water damage.

FACT: Sprinklers are not activated by smoke, but by a predetermined temperature, usually around 73 degrees. The chances of sprinklers malfunctioning are 1 in 16 million; the odds of winning the lottery are greater!

MYTH: When a fire is detected, every sprinkler in the building will activate.

FACT: As sprinklers are triggered by high temperatures, they will only be activated in the areas affected by fire.

MYTH: Sprinklers will ruin the appearance of my home.

FACT: Concealed sprinklers are fitted within the ceiling and covered by a flat plate. Most people don’t notice them, as shown in the images below.

MYTH: Sprinklers will be activated by vandals and cause water damage to properties.

FACT: As modern sprinkler systems are concealed within the ceiling, they are very difficult to vandalise. As it was quoted by a fire officer ‘if a vandal sets off a sprinkler they will only do it once, you get very wet!’

MYTH: Sprinklers are too expensive to install retrospectively.

FACT: The average cost of installing sprinklers is around £2,500 per property. Sprinklers can reduce damage to property by up to 90% and reduce physical injuries by at least 80%. Insurance premiums have been known to go down where sprinklers have been installed.

MYTH: Sprinklers use too much water.

FACT: As well as causing less water damage than a fire hose, sprinklers also use less water. Typically a sprinkler head discharges 55 litres per minute. A firefighting hose discharges over 600 litres per minute.
Another local authority to benefit first hand from the installation of sprinkler systems is Sheffield City Council. They worked in partnership with ########### to retrospectively install sprinkler systems to 23 blocks.
Sheffield City Council commissioned a fire safety report which identified a number of ranch style properties posing a serious fire risk. The Council worked with BAFSA to conduct an extensive cost analysis, weighing up the cost of passive fire safety work and fire suppression systems. As these ranch style properties had a complex layout with various inner rooms, the Council opted for the installation of sprinkler systems.

The main challenge the Council faced was finding the right contractor for the job, as most specialist sprinkler specialists lack experience within the social housing sector; particularly with regard to resident liaison services. As such, ############# was chosen to act as the main contractor, with in-house teams delivering resident liaison services, electrical work, carpentry and decorations.

Sprinkler systems were successfully installed across 540 individual dwellings within 11 months, 9 months ahead of schedule. The project cost a total of just over £1,500 per property.

The system installed by ########### successfully contained a serious fire on the 9th January 2016. The fire began from a mobility scooter parked outside a top floor property. The sprinkler system contained the fire until firefighters arrived on site, and allowed the elderly resident to escape safely.

Sprinkler systems are extremely effective at extinguishing and reducing the impact of fire, however they must be used in conjunction with other fire safety measures such as fire compartmentation, and the use of fire alarms or smoke detectors as an early warning of fire for residents".

Monday, October 16, 2017

Newham Compass debate on Adult Social Care - Quality vs Cash?

Dear Compass Supporter,

Here with details of our event on Thursdsay October 26th at 7.30:

Adult Social Care - Quality vs Cash ?

with Anna Bailey-Bearfield
Lead Officer: Fix Dementia Care
The Alzheimer’s Society

Larry Sanders
Social Care Spokesperson: the Green Party

Jos Bell
Chair: London Socialist Health Association

Please note the new, fully accessible, venue: East Ham Workingmen's Club, Boleyn Road.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

While in Dancing Dick's Lane - White Notley to Witham walk

Definitely off message but today Gill and I went for a linear walk from White Notley station to Witham station (Essex). It was a walk in an old booklet I found on my shelf called "Off the Beaten Track - 20 Rambles in Rural Essex" by Great Eastern Railway.

We had a a bit of a mad panic to get to the station to catch the train to White Notley since the ticket machine at Forest Gate station is currently out of action (should have used the new ones at Wanstead Park).

The walk was fantastic. Really pretty countryside and chocolate box villages. Very quiet and peaceful. We passed no other ramblers even though much of the route followed part of the long distance footpath, the Essex Walk. Apart from a couple of friendly dog owners we saw no-one.

The weather helped, since it was warm and blue skies (I was comfortable wearing only a tee-shirt on 15 October!).

It was interesting to see that an old Post Office red telephone box had been turned into a village base for an emergency Defibrillator in case anyone has a heart attack nearby (my father died while on a walking expedition and I have often wondered if he could have been saved if a defibrillator had been accessible. He had stopped off at a town for breakfast when he had the attack).

The 14th century church in Terling was lovely to visit. An ancient church with brass rubbings of long died medieval knights but still a valued community and religious centre currently celebrating the harvest festival. Well worth a visit if open.

The final part of the walk into Witham was along the oddly named "Dancing Dicks Lane" which went past "Dancing Dicks Cottages" and "Dancing Dicks Farm". I have googled this and found no explanation whatsoever for these names. I did feel obliged to participate and dance even though my name is not Richard (see above picture in collage).

Stopped off at Witham for a much needed drink with our nephew Lewis and his partner, Felicity, and our great niece the gorgeous Teagan!

A fab walk. The booklet said 8 miles (the instructions were not very good but may be just out of date. Make sure you have a Ordnance survey map/route planner with you) but Sportrate on my BlackBerry recorded 11.9 miles (and it took 4 hours 40 which is accurate including stops).

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Newham Labour Councillor Candidate Selection for 2018

I got this email yesterday evening from London Labour Regional office.
"Dear candidate,
Many thanks for attending your interview last weekend. I am pleased to inform you that the assessment team have recommended that you be included on the longlist of candidates and able to seek selection. This is formally subject to a vote by the LCF after the interviews are all complete.
Once the interviews are complete I will be in touch to confirm the next stage of the process. Selection meetings are scheduled for 9 and 10 December".
Game on 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Black History Month Event - London City Hall, Friday 27 October 2017

PROGRAMME OF THE DAY  Black History Month 2017

9:30 Coffee and Registration
10:00 Welcome and Introductions – Stephanie Thomas
10:20 Margaret Greer - National Black members Officer 
11:00 Alim Kamara – Entertainment (Story Story activity ) 
11:30 Coffee break 
11:45 Johnesia Francis – Youth worker motivational talk
12:15 Solomon Smith – Founder of Community Kitchen Outreach 13:00 Lunch
14:00 Anthony Joshua - Inspirational Video  / Dancers
14:30 Peter Parkin – (Pursuing your dreams presentation)
15:15 Franco - Magician Show
15:45 Alim Kamara – Entertainment (Closing ) 
16:00 End of Programme and Gifts 

Closing date for registration is Friday 20th October 2017

Branch Name:
Signed on behalf of Branch:
Print Name
Branch Position

Delegate 1

Contact Number or e-mail

Membership Number

Any children accompanying you? (ages please)

Dietary requirements

(Access/prayer room etc)

Delegate 2

Contact Number or e-mail

Membership Number

Any children accompanying you? (ages please)

Dietary requirements

(Access/prayer room etc)

Delegate 3

Contact Number or e-mail

Membership Number

Any children accompanying you? (ages please)

Dietary requirements

(Access/prayer room etc)

Unfortunately, because of venue space we have to limit the number of delegates sent  by each branch to three + their respective family members,  places will be allocated on a first -come - first -served basis until we have reached the maximum number allowed by the venue. Do not delay in sending back the form.
PLEASE RETURN THIS FORM NO LATER THAN 20TH OCTOBER 2017 (forms could be faxed or emailed to:)
TO: Yvonne Oliver UNISON, Congress House, Great Russell Street London WC1B 3LS

Fax:  0207 535 2105               e-mail:

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Workplace pensions work: but we are going backwards not forwards

Pensions for many have improved over the years but we are now in danger of going backwards not
forwards. See article below from TUC's Tim Sharp

"Workplace pensions work: three lessons from today’s ONS stats (8 August 17)

More older workers retiring today benefit from decent workplace pensions than ever before according to figures published by the Office for National Statistics. But changes to pension provision mean these gains are in danger of being reversed, and there is a growing gap between incomes of those with private pensions and those without.

The ONS stats tell what is to a large extent a success story. Incomes from private pensions increased sevenfold between 1977 and 2016. This is due to both a rise in the proportion of households receiving private pension income, and also increases in the amounts they receive. The proportion of retired households receiving income from private pensions rose from 45 per cent in 1977 to nearly 80 per cent in the financial year to 2016.

But despite rises in income from state pensions, the gap between those with workplace pensions and those relying on state pensions has grown. Those in receipt of private pensions have 1.6 times the disposable income of those relying on state pensions. This is the widest gap since the data was first collected in 1977. Having expanded during the 1980s, the gap has been increasing again since 2010.

What do these figures tell us about pensions policy today?
We need to improve access to workplace pensions. Many of those reaching retirement now are the beneficiaries of widespread pension provision (at least to men in full-time work) in previous decades. But this started being whittled away from the 1980s. By 2012 a minority of private sector workers were in a pension scheme. While automatic enrolment has improved this, nearly half of adults are ineligible to be automatically enrolled into a scheme. A key barrier is the £10,000 earnings trigger which excludes many low-paid and part-time workers, the vast majority of them women.

We need good quality pension schemes. There has been a strong shift away from defined benefit schemes, which pay an income based on your service and salary. In their place have come defined contribution pension schemes, in which the member is reliant on contributions made and the performance of investment markets. Contributions into very many DC schemes, particularly for those newly automatically enrolled, are utterly insufficient to generate a decent income in retirement. Unless this improves drastically, incomes from private pensions in future will be a fraction of those received by many retiring today.

There needs to be decent state provision. The ONS calculated that income from state pensions almost doubled between 1977 (£5,600) and 2016 (£11,000) in real terms. But the ONS reports that cash benefits, such as the state pension, have become less effective at reducing inequality among pensioners in recent years. We know that there are great inequalities in workplace pension entitlements. Women have far smaller private pensions than men. And single women are most likely to be reliant on the state pension. So if we are concerned about gross inequality among the retired, then a decent state pension is a must".

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Stratford & East London Skyline

Picture from the balcony of East Thames (now L&Q) Housing headquarters in Stratford, Newham, London before a UNISON branch meeting. A stunning view of the Stratford & East London skyline including the Olympic Stadium, docklands and all the recent residential development around the high street.

Alas, nearly all of it completely unaffordable for local residents.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

World Mental Health day #WMHD

Some useful stuff from ACAS and UNISON. Remember that 1:6 adults had a common mental health problem last week. 

Dear Colleague,

Today is World Mental Health day. This year's theme is mental health in the workplace.

We have new guidance to help.

download our guide and view case studies.

We also have further guidance on:

Acas has a free elearning module on 'Mental Health Awareness for Employers'. Register for Acas' free eLearning courses.

Read our blog from Wendy Canham, Service Manager at West Suffolk Councils who discusses mental health in the workplace and how looking after staff's welfare is everyone's responsibility.

We also provide training on Stress in the workplace and Having difficult conversations.

To book or for more information call our Customer Services Team on 0300 123 1150 or email

Monday, October 09, 2017

Walk from Forest Gate to Chingford

Off message but a lovely walk today from the People's Republic to Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge at Chingford. Highlights are :- Great sky. Fantastic breakfast at the Lakeside Diner. Then got lost. Found way across A406. Had coffee at Higham lake. At end of walk, Butler's Retreat was too packed to visit. Train from Chingford station back to Liverpool Street.