Hammersmith & Fulham blames safety lapses on ‘administrative failures’
Council fined £83,000 for multiple gas safety breaches
Hammersmith & Fulham Council has pleaded guilty to a catalogue of safety failings which put many of its tenants at increased risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The flagship Conservative authority admitted to nine separate breaches of gas safety laws and asked for 14 further breaches to be take into account in a case at Westminster Magistrates Court this month.
The west London borough was fined £83,000 for failing to carry out statutory annual checks on the properties and ordered to pay court costs of £15,553.
The prosecution follows an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive which revealed that safety checks had slipped on 297 homes between April 2008 and August 2010. Only 20 of these were later inspected by the HSE.
Most of the homes were leased long-term from private landlords for temporary accommodation for homeless households.
HSE inspector Nicola Maisuria said the case should send ‘a clear message’ to other local authorities. ‘They must ensure they carry out all necessary gas safety checks,’ she warned.
An H&F spokesperson said it ‘apologised unreservedly’ to tenants affected by its serious ‘administrative failures’. The council says it has completely overhauled its procedures in this area but denied requests for further details. The spokesperson added all officers ‘associated with these failings no longer work for the council’.
A council report on gas safety - released to councillors last month - is not being made public.
Stephen Cowan, the Labour leader of H&F’s main opposition party, said: ‘We are asking for a review of all health and safety checks, how this is going to be monitored and a report at the cabinet level on a monthly basis.’
The safety lapses were particularly worrying as two H&F tenants died from carbon monoxide poisoning in 1998, while living in council homes, he added.
This year’s court case comes just months after Inside Housing revealed on 11 May that H&F received five enforcement notices on tower blocks from the London Fire Brigade. The authority claimed in May to have set aside £1.7 million to finance fire safety works.